© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trafficking, self-defense and survival: The case of Chrystul Kizer

The case of Kenosha's Chrystul Kizer
Aerial Mike
The case of Kenosha's Chrystul Kizer

Chrystul Kizer gained national attention in 2018 when she was charged with killing her suspected trafficker when she was 17. It was a story that brought renewed attention to child trafficking and spurred conversations, and debates, about survivorhood and self-defense.

After years of back and forth with Kenosha courts and the state, Kizer accepted a plea deal on reduced charges of reckless homicide last month.

Kizer's case held a number of similarities to another case in Ohio involving a teenage girl who killed her father in self defense. Someone familiar with that case reached out to Santera Matthews, a cofounding member of the Chrystul Kizer defense committee, and organizers here in Wisconsin encouraging them to examine the circumstances surrounding Kizer's case. After reaching out to Kizer's family, Matthews and others discovered more about the teen's story.

"Crystal was being groomed by this man named Randy Volar, and grooming is the process of getting people comfortable with things that push the boundary like sexual abuse," explains Matthews. "She needed to act in self-defense. Our defense committee formed and we were able to rally support from across the City of Milwaukee, the state of Wisconsin, Kenosha, and across the nation."

Matthews argues that the narrative surrounding self-defense is not always fully reflective of the reality that many survivors experience.

"I think that there's this mainstream idea that survivors are going to be easily identifiable, that it's this visible, very clear situation of violence. But survivorhood sometimes looks like having to fight back and making a nonchoice."

She continues, "Survivorhood looks like sometimes staying in a relationship because the person who's harming you is paying for your bills, your housing. Survivorhood looks like dying because the person who is abusing you actually pushes it to the end and kills you. It looks like fighting back So, I think that the sooner that we realize that survivorhood looks like very many different things, the easier it'll be to figure out what solutions we actually need to end gender-based violence."

Regarding Kizer specifically, Matthews wants to emphasize that, "she is a survivor who is deserving of our care and our support. And this fight is not done. Just because she's at where she is with her case doesn't mean that we're going to let her just disappear into the prison system. We're absolutely not."


Jimmy is a WUWM producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
Related Content