Five months ago, Cyntoia Brown-Long was released from prison after spending 15 years there for killing a man she said paid her for sex while she was a teenage victim of sex trafficking.
Now, another teenage sex trafficking victim is facing the possibility of a life sentence after killing her adult abuser. Chrystul Kizer, 19, confessed to fatally shooting 34-year-old Randy Volar in Wisconsin in 2018, saying she was tired of being sexually assaulted by him.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News’ AM to DM on Tuesday, Brown-Long highlighted similarities between her and Kizer’s cases, saying it seems “like history was repeating itself.”
“Here was yet another situation where there was a young girl caught up with some unfortunate circumstances, who reacted out of trauma,” Brown-Long said. “And the justice system wasn’t necessarily trying to hear that, trying to see that.”
According to the Washington Post, Kizer first met Volar when she was 16 after he responded to her ad on the classifieds site Backpage.com, which was shut down last year for facilitating sex trafficking.
Kizer, in need of money for snacks and school supplies, began seeing Volar. He paid her for sex and eventually began trafficking her to other men. Though she claimed in the Backpage.com ad to be 19, Kizer said Volar was definitely aware of her real age as he invited her over to celebrate on her 17th birthday.
Kizer wasn’t the only girl Volar allegedly sexually abused. In February 2018, Volar was arrested on child sex charges after a 15-year-old girl called 911 from his house, saying he’d given her drugs and was going to kill her.
Despite finding evidence in his home that Volar was sexually abusing about a dozen minors — including “hundreds” of child pornography videos, and more than 20 videos of Volar with underage black girls — he was released without bail the same day.
A spokesperson for the Kenosha County Courthouse in Wisconsin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kizer said she had tried distancing herself from Volar because she was starting to get serious with a boyfriend, but when she told Volar, he threatened to kill her. She did not report the threat to police, not believing they would actually help her.
In June 2018, Kizer allegedly shot Volar in the head twice, lit his body on fire, and ran away in his car.
She confessed a few days later, saying she did it because Volar had tried to sexually assault her once again and she was tired of it. Kizer said she had jumped up when he started touching her leg, and when she tried to get away, he got on top of her on the floor and tried to rip her pants off.
Kizer’s lawyers are trying to defend her using “affirmative defense,” a law stating that people who commit crimes as a “direct result” of being trafficked can be acquitted. But the judge in the case said that law couldn’t apply to Kizer, arguing the killing was premeditated, based on text messages Kizer had sent beforehand.
According to state law, in Wisconsin “a victim of Human Trafficking has an
affirmative defense for any crime he or she committed as a direct
result of the trafficking without regard to whether anyone was
prosecuted or convicted for trafficking.” The law does not say anything about exceptions for crimes that are premeditated.
On AM to DM, Brown-Long hit back against those who think she and Kizer “chose” to enter into human trafficking.
“That’s simply not the reality of the situation,” Brown-Long said. “That’s not how the minds of young people work. Young people are, by nature, very susceptible to being manipulated by older individuals, and that’s why laws are in place on statutory rape.”
Brown-Long takes particular issue with the Wisconsin judge’s decision not to allow for an affirmative defense in Kizer’s case. She hopes lawmakers will “step up and clarify that no judge can just choose to ignore what [laws have] been passed.”
“The justice system, it doesn’t see us as people,” Brown-Long said. “It doesn’t really understand the human experience. There’s no room for mercy, there’s no room for taking into consideration, ‘What was this person going through at this time?'”