Sara Kruzan is a victim of human trafficking, who, because of a crime she committed as a traumatized and enslaved child, has now spent over half her life in prison. But across America and around the world, hundreds of thousands of voices are now uniting in a call to justice for Sara and other children like her. Their message is clear: Governor Schwarzenegger, if you do one thing before you leave office, release child trafficking victim Sara Kruzan with time served.
Sara Kruzan was an 11-year-old girl when she first met G.G., the 31-year-old man who would become her pimp. G.G. groomed Sara for two years by buying her gifts and taking her roller skating. Since Sara's mother was addicted to drugs, being with G.G. felt like having a real parent around. But when she was 13, he raped her to initiate her into prostitution. G.G. then forced Sara and several other young girls to sell sex on the streets from 6pm to 6am, every night. Twelve hours a night, seven nights a week, for three years, Sara was sold to strangers so G.G. could profit. She was in every sense, a modern-day slave. At just sixteen and with no other perceivable way out, she shot him.
Despite her young age, her severe trauma, and her status as a child trafficking victim, Sara was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. She was sentenced to a life without the possibility of redemption. She was sentenced to a life without hope.
But a national, grassroots movement is underway to get freedom and justice for Sara. On Change.org alone, nearly 20,000 people have signed petitions supporting Sara's freedom. Change.org members are publicly expressing their outrage at the serious miscarriage of justice in Sara's sentence of life without the possibility of parole. As Change.org reader Michelle Quann commented,
"You have a minor child being sexually victimized by an adult, and when her fragile psyche finally snaps and she reacts in such a primitive "child-like" way the courts want to treat her as an adult (which she isn't) ... What poor judgement and lack of concern for the victim in this case."And the movement isn't limited to Change.org. Anti-trafficking, human rights, and youth advocacy organizations from across the country have been sending letters to Gov. Schwarzenegger, asking him to grant Sara's clemency petition and release her with time served. As GEMS Executive Director Rachel Lloyd says,
"Sara's been victimized three times -- once by the institutions who failed her, once by the men who bought and sold her, and now by the criminal justice system that plans to incarcerate her for the rest of her life."And according to Alison Parker, Director of the U.S. Program for Human Rights Watch,
“Sara Kruzan is an outstanding example of why the life without parole sentence for people who were under 18 when they committed their crimes is a human rights violation and fundamentally unfair. She was a child in a coercive situation not taken into account when she was sentenced. Now, she has changed. This sentence is so wrong for kids, because it says there is no chance of redemption."But Sara is redeemed. She has become a model prisoner and deeply regrets her actions. But she has now spent over half her life in prison for a crime she committed as a trafficked, traumatized child. She's served her time. Now, Sara deserves a chance to heal from her pain and trauma, recover from the abuse of sex trafficking, and finally live in freedom after being enslaved or imprisoned since she was 13 years old. She deserves hope. You can watch her incredibly compelling story unfold below.