When She Owed $150,000 In Restitution, Crowdfunding Came To The Rescue

jar of money on a table with coins spilling out
Zain Murdock
September 21, 2022

On June 1, 2020, after months of being unhoused and sex trafficked, 15-year-old Pieper Lewis killed one of the men who raped her. But Iowa police and prosecutors didn’t see her as a victim.

Lewis spent two years in juvenile detention. Then she was “offered” five years of probation in a facility  AND a $150,000 bill to pay her rapist’s family restitution.

Lewis is a part of a much bigger problem.  40% of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are Black. In places like LA County, that number rises to 92%. 59% of youth arrested for "juvenile prostitution" are also Black. 

But things started looking up when Lewis’ former teacher started a GoFundMe.

Contributors raised over $550,000, paying off her restitution and making sure she has college money. Lewis hopes to advocate for survivors like her in the future. 

"My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames," she said in court. "Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow."

Lewis’ case shows how the criminal legal system is designed to punish survivors of sexual violence, not protect them or end sex trafficking. But it also shows the power of community - when we can come together on each other's behalf, we have power in numbers - no one ever has to be alone!

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