A 27-year-old woman who was trafficked for ten years, working as an unpaid laborer in a variety of cities across the country has been awarded almost $8 million in damages by a federal judge in Kansas. This verdict is believed to be the most significant, trafficking-related verdict in U.S. history.
Kendra Ross, now 27, said she was victimized by a group initially known as the United Nation of Islam, which split from the Nation of Islam in 1978.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree of Kansas wrote in the order that Royall Jenkins and his organization, The Value Creators, exploited Kendra Ross’ vulnerability, “knowing that she was unfamiliar with the world outside the cult, had received no standard education, was constantly moved from place to place, and had no money.” Miss Ross alleged in the lawsuit that from the age of 11 until 2012, when she “gathered her courage and strength to escape,” she was forced to work without any pay in restaurants and as a cook, maid and a childcare provider in Kansas City, Kansas; Newark, New Jersey; Dayton, Ohio; Atlanta and New York City.
The Value Creators is headed by Royall Jenkins, who did not return messages seeking comment. Jenkins filed one confusing document in the case but otherwise, didn’t respond to the suit, and a default judgment was entered against him.
Ross said in her suit that starting at age 11; she was made to work in a United Nation of Islam-run bakery for a few hours before school, and an eight-hour shift after school, for which she was never compensated. She was removed from her mother’s home when she was 12 and sent to a house run by the group. She continued to work either in the group’s businesses, providing daycare or housecleaning seven days a week. She testified that her irregular schooling, which often consisted of watching horror movies, was stopped when she was 15.
In 2012, Ross fled from the group and eventually entered a shelter for trafficking victims.
Judge Crabtree awarded her $2.92 million for emotional distress, $3.37 million for punitive damages, and nearly $1.2 million for racketeering damages and unpaid overtime.
Ross’ attorney, Betsy Hutson, said her client, whose location is being kept secret, is “thrilled” and described the judgment as a “powerful tool for the anti-trafficking movement.”
We wish Kendra Ross the best in the future.