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“I am a survivor,” stated Pieper Lewis, now a 17-year-old human trafficking victim who stabbed her rapist to death and is now being penalized by the Iowa Court.
In June 2020, Lewis was 15 when she stabbed Zachary Brooks of Des Moines over 30 times in his apartment after he forced himself on her repeatedly. According to officials, Lewis abandoned her home with her abusive adopted mother and slept in the hallway of Brooks’ apartment, where a 28-year-old man picked her up for human trafficking.
Many men began raping Lewis, one of them being Brooks, who did so several times. Finally, the 28-year-old threatened Lewis with a knife to go to Brooks’ apartment for sex. After informing officials multiple times about being raped, Lewis took the knife near the table and began stabbing Brooks. Prosecutors have not argued that Lewis was trafficked and sexually assaulted; however, they disputed that he was sleeping during the attack, posing no threat to Lewis.
On September 13 in Des Moines, Iowa, Lewis was sentenced to five years of closely watched probation and must pay $150,000 in restitution to Brooks’ family.
In disagreement with the ruling, Lewis’ attorney disputed emphatically that it should be reviewed as cruel and unusual punishment to force her to compensate the rapist’s family. Still, because of Iowa human trafficking laws, Porter stated that restitution is mandatory, as “this court is presented with no other option” due to Iowa law by the Supreme Court.
Initially, Lewis was charged with first-degree murder, but the charges changed following her plea agreement for involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. Lewis faced up to twenty years behind bars until David M. Porter, Polk County District Judge, suspended both prison sentences; however, if any section of her probation is violated, she will receive 20 years in prison.
In 2021, 230 cases of child sex trafficking were shared with the Iowa Department of Human Services, with only 22 of said reports supported. Unlike several other states, Iowa does not provide human traffickers with a level of criminal protection.
Many individuals believe Lewis should be freed, such as her old teacher, Leland Schipper, who started a GoFundMe to support Lewis and raise money. In less than 24 hours, she raised over $200,000 for Lewis.