SAN DIEGO–Legislation sponsored by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office and introduced by Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) that would prevent victims from being forced to pay spousal support to ex-husbands or wives who are convicted of violent sexual crime against them will be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Assembly Bill 1522 was inspired by the case of a San Diego-area woman, Crystal Harris, who was ordered to pay her former husband monthly spousal support during the pendency of his criminal trial. After he was convicted and sentenced to six years, Harris was ordered to pay a portion of his legal fees.
“The District Attorney’s Office is working to change the law that allowed Crystal Harris to be re-victimized,” said Dumanis. “I’m proud to partner with Assemblymember Atkins to make sure this can’t happen again to victims of violent crime.”
Current law already prevents spousal support in cases of the attempted murder or soliciting the murder of a spouse. AB 1522 would add violent sex felonies to the list of convictions that disqualify a person from obtaining financial benefits from their ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding.
“The current law allowing rapists to demand payment from their spouses in a divorce is unjust,” says Atkins. “Victims of violent sex crimes already suffer physical trauma, fear, and an assault on their privacy and dignity. To require them also to pay their abuser alimony or to give them a share of their pension or household goods is cruel and makes a mockery of the intent behind the laws governing the fair division of assets in a divorce.”
Harris, whose case brought national attention to the loophole in the law, also voiced strong support of the bill. “I never want to think of another rape victim having to go through the re-victimization process that I went through. I urge all people devoted to justice to make sure this bill passes.”
The bill is garnering strong bi-partisan legislative support, with Senators Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon), Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad) and Assemblymembers Marty Block (D- Lemon Grove), Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista), Martin Garrick (R-Carlsbad), Kevin Jeffries (R- Murrieta), Brian Jones (R-Santee), Jeff Miller (R-Orange), and Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) signing on as co-authors before the bill was formally introduced.