More than 50 years later, Kris still remembers the face of Satan.
She never meant to meet him. The encounter came after she, at 18 years old, hopped off a train in Chicago while working her way east toward the Woodstock Music Festival. At the station, she said, one of his recruiters approached her.
Within two minutes, the recruiter learned that the penniless teenager from the Midwest didn’t know the city, didn’t know anyone there, and didn’t have anywhere to stay. By five minutes, he offered Kris — a self-described hippie and risk taker — LSD and a place to stay.
Kris soon found herself in a small, two-bedroom apartment surrounded by other girls her age. She realized it was a gang-run human trafficking operation only after she met the boss, a man called Satan.
“I still occasionally will have a nightmare with this guy in it,” she said, remembering his beady, feral eyes and the giant scar running down the side of his face. “I’ll never forget it.”
After greeting her, Satan informed her that she would have sex for money, which she would then hand over to them. When Kris decided to leave, he beat up another girl until she bled.
“If you don’t do what we say, whenever we say it, then that’s what will happen to you,” she said he warned.
Next, they threw Kris down, raped her, and branded her with their gang symbol.
Traffickers, Kris emphasized, are terrorists. Her captors valued loyalty and obedience while weaponizing fear and drugs. At first, they never left her alone, even in the bathroom. But, she said, they rewarded her with more freedom when she returned to them after visiting her father (they threatened to kill the other girls if she didn’t).
Escaping the gang
She planned to escape after she witnessed Satan slit another man’s throat. She began charging more for “tricks” or sexual acts and hid the extra money behind a bathroom tile.
Her opportunity came when her traffickers got high on heroin. They wanted something from the bodega and, taking a chance, Kris offered to go. She ran to the train station. She fled home.
And, for the next 40 years, she kept her story a secret.
Today, Kris, who asked to be called by her first name for this story, serves as the executive director of the Justice Project of Kansas City, a nonprofit that supports women struggling with poverty, including women who have been sexually exploited.
While she is not Catholic, Kris partners with Catholic sisters: She began her organization with Sister Donna Ryan, RSM, and works closely with Sister Jeanne Christensen, RSM, a board member for the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT), a network that fights to end human trafficking.
Category: Investigative Reporting