Sixteen-year-old human trafficking victim Sara Kruzan was sentenced to life in prison without parole when, in a desperate act to escape captivity, she shot her pimp. Now 32, Sara has spent half her life in prison as a model prisoner and has finally asked Governor Schwarzenegger for clemency. You can tell Governor Schwarzenegger to commute her sentence to time served and authorize her release, because human trafficking victims like Sarah Kruzan deserve support and care, not prison.
Sara met G.G., the 31-year-old man who would become her pimp, when she was only 11. Sara’s mom struggled with drug addiction, so when G.G. would drive Sara and her friends to the roller skating rink or the mall, it felt like having a real parent around. He gave her presents and told her she was special — so special, that she should never give sex away for free. He convinced her she was a product. G.G. groomed Sara like this for two years before he raped her to initiate her into prostitution. By then, his control was complete. Sara and the other girls who G.G. exploited were forced to sell sex on the streets from 6pm to 6am, every night. Twelve hours a night, seven days a week, for three years, Sara was raped by strangers so G.G. could profit. After three years, she snapped, and she killed him.
Sara was arrested and tried in 1994, before anyone was using the term “human trafficking” and when the country was still struggling to understand issues like domestic violence and pimp control that give one person coercive control over another. So there was no expert witness at Sara’s trial to explain how her years of repeated rape, trauma, and abuse had affected her actions. There was no one to tell the jury that with counseling, support, and care, Sara could heal from her traumatic past and grow to be a strong and moral woman. Yet somehow, even in the darkness of prison with no hope of ever leaving, she has done that. Sara has become a model prisoner on their honor’s floor, earned a college degree, and was even named “Woman of the Year” at her prison.
Sara has always expressed deep sorrow and regret for her actions, and doesn’t use her past as an excuse for them. But they were the actions of a traumatized girl who had just spent her 16th birthday being raped. They were actions, which, according to the California Youth Authority, should have meant detention in a juvenile center until Sara was 25, ideally with at least some services to help her overcome her trauma. Instead, she was locked up for the rest of her life.
Sara’s clemency plea has been submitted to Governor Schwarzenegger, and the decision of whether or not to release her with time served rests solely with him. Sara Kruzan deserves hope. She deserves hope that she didn’t survive being raped and sold for three years for nothing. She deserves hope that the darkest chapter of her life has passed, and a horizon lies ahead. She deserves hope that she can change, grow, and flourish as a woman. But in life without parole, there is no hope.
Please, give Sara hope. Tell Governor Schwarzenegger that human trafficking victims like Sara Kruzan deserve support and restoration, not a life in prison.