People who are being sexually trafficked are often completely trapped. The abuse, which often includes forced prostitution, can go on for years. Victims have no say in their own lives, are forced to work, and can’t keep the money they earn. It’s akin to slavery.
That may be why, in 2008, Wisconsin passed a law declaring that sex-trafficking victims are absolved of “any offense committed as a direct result” of being trafficked. Almost 40 other states passed similar laws, although many differ from Wisconsin’s by providing immunity only for prostitution or other crimes the victims are forced to commit.
Wisconsin’s law says, “any offense.” Does that include murdering your abuser in order to free yourself from sex slavery?
The question is currently before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the case of Chrystul Kizer. At age 16, Chrystul met Randall Volar on Backpage.com, a website that has since been shut down for facilitating sex trafficking. The Kenosha police allegedly suspected that Volar was trafficking children.
According to Chrystul, Volar sexually molested her and then trafficked her for others for a year. When Chrystul was 17, she allegedly shot him, burned down his house and stole his car.
Authorities in Kenosha charged Chrystul with first-degree intentional homicide, along with arson, auto theft and illegal possession of a gun. If she is convicted on the homicide charge, she faces mandatory life in prison.
Chrystul’s attorneys wanted to invoke the 2008 law in her case, but the trial judge would not allow it. He ruled that the immunity only applies to sex-trafficking-related crimes. Chrystul appealed and, last June, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that the 2008 law applies to any offense, including homicide, as long as it is committed as a direct result of sex trafficking. It said the question of whether the homicide was directly related to Chrystul’s sex trafficking had to go before a jury.
The immunity would provide stronger protection than self-defense
The Wisconsin Department of Justice appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, arguing that the legislature could not have intended to provide broader immunity to sex-trafficking victims than they could have by claiming self-defense.
Many victims’ advocacy groups are supporting Chrystul’s right to present her immunity claim to a jury. Further, they raised $400,000 to get Chrystul out on bail.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice argues that Chrystul’s alleged crimes cannot be said to be a direct result of her sex-trafficking. It contends that no jury could ever find that they were, so Chrystul shouldn’t be allowed to even argue.
This sounds like a question of fact, which are traditionally answered by juries. Why shouldn’t Chrystul be allowed to make the argument?