By Senator Lena C. Taylor
#SayHerName campaigns have become all too familiar. Breonna Taylor. Sandra Bland. Lauren Smith-Fields. Intended to raise awareness about Black women and girls that have been the victim of police brutality, the undertaking has also expanded to include missing Black females, those wrongfully arrested and incarcerated. While none of the above-named women hail from Wisconsin, we have our own residents who could be added to this unique social justice movement. Chrystul Kizer.
As a part of the observance of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, local communities have spent a great deal of time talking about the issue of exploited individuals. Whether labor, commercial sex, child or organ trafficking, we are so much smarter today on this topic. We have learned to better identify, report and convict those associated with this crime.
We realized that we never really saw persons involved in sex trafficking, in particular, as victims. We assumed that these were choices, that they were not victims but volunteers for crimes like prostitution. We even charged minors, who are not legally old enough to consent to sex under the age of 18, with prostitution. Laws aimed at correcting this practice have been introduced both in Wisconsin and around the nation. Safe Harbor Laws, for trafficked youth, have been making their way through legislatures. It is unreal to think how we revictimized these children, while giving them a criminal record along the way.
Enter Chrystul Kizer. In 2018, at the age of 16, Chrystul was accused of killing a man who is said to have sexually assaulted her and other underage girls. Chrystul is African American, and the man accused of selling her to other men to commit sex acts is white. Law enforcement acknowledges that the man had been arrested and released, after his home was found to contain large amounts of pornography and videos of him having sex with the Chrystul. There were other minors that appeared to be as young as 12 in videos as well. The alleged videos show he assaulted multiple African American girls. Chrystul has been charged with five felony counts in this matter.
As this case works its way through the system, many have questioned why Chrystul had not been viewed as a victim of human trafficking. If she was classified in this way, she could possibly employ what is known as an “affirmative defense.” This would be a consideration in reviewing her case and charging decisions. The ramifications were huge. A judge decided that the affirmative defense did not apply to her case.
Chrystul is 20 years old now. She recently won an appeal in her case that would allow her to present evidence to show that her actions were a “direct result” of her abuse for nearly a year at the hands of the man she killed. Human trafficking may have another name: Chrystul Kizer.