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A GoFundMe for Pieper Lewis — ordered to pay restitution for killing her alleged rapist — has raised over $373,000

A GoFundMe campaign started for Pieper Lewis — the Iowa teen sentenced Tuesday to pay $150,000 in restitution after killing her accused rapist — has raised over $373,000 as of Thursday, with donations pouring in from nearly 10,000 people. Lewis, who pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury, was also sentenced to five years of probation.

Officials said Lewis was 15-year-old runaway and a victim of human trafficking when she stabbed Brooks to death in his apartment in June 2020 after being forced into sex. 

The GoFundMe was started by Lewis' former math teacher, Leland Schipper, who stated on the page that the funds will be used to pay off her restitution to Brooks' family and the state, "Remove financial barriers for Pieper in pursuing college/university or starting her own business," and to "Give Pieper the financial capacity to explore ways to help other young victims of sex crimes." 

GoFundMe web page
The GoFundMe page created to help pay Pieper Lewis' restitution. GoFundMe

Lewis, now 17, was sentenced by Polk County District Judge David M. Porter Tuesday in the killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks of Des Moines. She could have faced up to 10 years in prison for each of two charges. While Lewis managed to avoid doing time, the judge warned that any violation of her probation could result in having to serve a 20-year prison sentence.

The judge said the restitution Lewis was ordered to pay to Brooks' estate is mandatory under Iowa law, and that "this court is presented with no other option," the Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors had argued that Brooks was asleep at the time, and posed no immediate danger to Lewis.  

"My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames," Lewis read from a prepared statement on Tuesday. "Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow. I am a survivor." 

Lewis earned her GED while in detention awaiting sentencing.

"Pieper wants to go to college, she wants to create art, and she wants to advocate for other girls who find themselves in situations like she endured," wrote Schipper in the GoFundMe description. "She does not deserve a massive debt looming over her, holding her back from pursuing her ambitions." 

Many states in the U.S. have "safe harbor" laws, which grant minors who are victims of sex trafficking a certain level of criminal immunity, but Iowa does not have such provisions in place. According to the National Institute of Justice, a University of Kentucky study on safe harbor laws in the state "showed that justice-involved children were more likely to be screened for sex trafficking and to be offered victim services, and were less likely to be criminally charged."

Karl Schilling, an activist with the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, said that while a bill to create a safe harbor in Iowa passed that state's House earlier this year, it stalled in the Senate due to concerns from law enforcement groups that the legislation was too broad.

If you or a loved one is the victim of human trafficking, please call the toll-free National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888. 

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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