I first learned about Sara Kruzan, an activist and survivor of child sex trafficking, from listening to an episode of Ear Hustle, one of the podcasts at San Quentin. The episode “Dirty Water” featured an awkward conversation between Kruzan and SQ resident Louis Scott about what it’s like to be abused. Scott had been an abuser, Kruzan had been abused. It was difficult for me to listen to their discourse because I am an abuser and I’ve been abused.
Author, playwright and long-time SQ volunteer Cori Thomas told me about her take on the episode.
“Sara was facing Louis Scott and talking about trafficking,” Thomas said. “I never heard a woman talking about this subject and I wondered how many other people didn’t know about this important subject.”
Thomas sought out Kruzan after hearing the podcast herself, wanting her to share her story. Thomas’ persistence became the basis of a friendship between them that continues today.
“That’s when I suggested she write a book, but she was reluctant about putting her personal life out to the public,” Thomas said. “But I let her know that her story was important and [that] her telling the story from her perspective would be for the public good.”
Thomas met with Kruzan, encouraging her step-by-step to write, “I Cried to Dream Again,” her memoir that covers how she grew up steeped in abuse from childhood to adulthood, never escaping until one day when she decided to kill her abuser.
The act — seen by herself as self-defense — came with a toll: a life sentence in state prison.
Still, Thomas was determined to help Kruzan tell her story.
“I was relentless in getting details. I wanted more and more information to tell the story as fully and authentically as possible,” Thomas said, calling it a “traumatic and hard, rough process.”
After listening to the episode and interviewing Thomas, I wanted to read Kruzan’s memoir.
When the memoir was ordered and delivered to SQ’s mailroom, I got a notice that the book, “I Cried to Dream Again,” was banned due to language depicting a minor in sexual activity.
When Thomas learned that the book was held up by the mailroom, she told me that she was “shocked.”
“It was hurtful to read that it was banned at San Quentin,” Thomas said while holding the notice. “[It] was insulting and offensive to read those words.
“The fact that it was banned for depicting a minor in sexual activity is the subject matter of the story. The story does not glorify what happened — it’s saying that that conduct is immoral and wrong.”
Several weeks passed. Then, I got a notice from CDCR headquarters that the book would be allowed in San Quentin.
For me, “I Cried to Dream Again” was a very hard book to read, but the insight of Kruzan’s plight from incarceration to freedom to advocate will inspire its readers as a real-life hero’s journey.
Kruzan’s resilience is refreshing; the narrative shifts from her being abused to owning a powerful voice as a survivor without shame.
The language and narration allowed me to put myself in Kruzan’s shoes, giving me a keen understanding of how horrible an upbringing Kruzan endured.
She also gives readers a better understanding of the importance of supporting young, impressionable children, and being ready to intervene when necessary to prevent child trafficking.
“The circle is broken only after there’s been healing,” Thomas said about Kruzan’s new life outside of prison.
Kruzan was pardoned a few months after “I Cried to Dream Again” was published. She now advocates for children’s rights and has collaborated with Human Rights for Kids to develop a slate of policies collectively known as “Sara’s Law” that will protect child sex crime survivors from lengthy prison sentences for acts of violence committed against their abusers. This model policy has been introduced in more than a dozen states and in the U.S. Congress.
“The power of hope is so important to share,” Kruzan said. “We are not only the reflection of humanity, we are the very echo etched within the wind.”