A Suburban Teen’s Abuse
Victim of Sex Trafficking Reveals His 40-Year Secret
Editor’s Note: April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and The Reporters Inc. is proud to present (below) an excerpt from the new book, Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking, by R. Kevin Kline and Daniel D. Maurer. It’s the shocking true story of what happened to Kline when he was just 14-years-old—a story he kept hidden for years.
The abuse took place over the course of one summer, between May and August of 1975 in suburban St. Louis. But the memories continue to haunt him.
In the book, Kline describes his friendship with a young man named Tim who, like Kline, was gay. Then he shares how Tim introduced him to an older gay man named Ray. He writes, “As Ray talked I thought to myself, ‘Wow, he really is a nice guy, and he looks real cool!”
It wasn’t long, however, before Kline’s opinion of his new friend changed: “It turned out he was essentially delivering me to Ray to be trained”–trained as a male hustler who would trade sex with men for money.
By the end of the summer, Kline broke free and returned to his life as a suburban kid; he tried to forget and suppress everything that’d happened to him. “I thought I had done a good job recovering from the trauma until one night in 2008,” he explains. “I was walking home with my son and a gang of kids jumped us. We fought them off without getting hurt, but after that happened, I started having terrible nightmares.”
The nightmares took him back to the time he was victimized over and over again by the men Ray sent him to service. “I knew I had to do something about it so I started seeing a psychologist,” Kline says.
He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the doctor urged him to journal about his memories. He wrote about things he hadn’t thought about in years. Around the same time, he shared his story with an old friend, Dan Maurer.
“Kevin called me up one night and said he wanted to tell me something, and that after I heard it I would never think of him the same way again. I thought maybe he’s a CIA spy, an ax murder or something,” Maurer recalls, laughing.
Maurer calls Kline’s revelation an “act of courage. He transformed himself from that scared kid on the street to someone brave enough to dig up his past and share his story.”
Following their conversation, Maurer started looking around on the Internet to see if anyone had written extensively about similar ordeals. Maurer specializes in writing transformative stories, and this one intrigued him.
“I found a lot of books out there about girls who had been victimized, but nothing about guys,” he says. Maurer proposed writing a book. At first Kline wasn’t sure he wanted to do it, but realizing that it had the potential to help others, he agreed to the project.
Studies of sex trafficking, including those involving children in the United States, are scarce. But according to a January 2015 Congressional Research Service report, sex trafficking of children appears to be fueled by a variety of environmental and situational variables. They range from poverty and the use of prostitution by runaway and “thrown-away” children to provide for their subsistence needs, to the recruitment of children by organized crime units for prostitution.
According to a Department of Justice report, approximately 40 percent of all human trafficking investigations involve children who’ve been sex trafficked.
Today, Kline is a Lutheran minister in St. Louis. 40 years after the abuse he endured, he’s on a mission to help others caught up in sex trafficking. “I want to raise awareness about the need for resources for young men who have been the victims of sex crimes,” Kline says. “They need help to recover from what happened to them.” He says there is little support readily available for working male sex workers, many of whom are living on the streets. He’s currently in the process of starting up a support group for them.
And not only is Faraway Kline’s story, he says it’s also the story of “Stevie” and “Squirrel,” two friends he made during the ordeal. They too worked for Ray. Shortly after Kline met the boys back in 1975, Squirrel was hit by a bus and killed. Stevie died of exposure on the streets a few weeks time later.
“If they had lived, Squirrel would have been an awesome theater kid and Stevie, he would have been a good guy too. They just weren’t given a chance. This book is for them, and kids like them,” Kline says.
* * * * *
The evening after I was first pimped out, Ray pulled his van into Tower Grove Park in south St. Louis. He drove around a big circle in the middle of the park, which was like a roundabout for cars to drop off passengers. As we looped around the other side, I saw what looked like a pavilion, some sort of Greek-looking building with pillars on the front. As we pulled around, I noticed a couple of kids sitting on the curb as if they were waiting for someone or something. When they saw the van, they both stood up. I figured they knew the van—and Ray.
Ray rolled down his window with a few cranks on the handle. “Hey, Stevie.”
The taller boy approached the van. He appeared older than me and looked confident, like he knew how to handle himself.
Stevie glanced at me in the passenger seat. He rolled his eyes.
“Aw fuck, Ray, another one?”
“Yeah, Stevie . . . another one,” Ray said. Without missing a beat, he continued, “This is Kevin. I need you to look after him while I go out; show him what’s going on, will you?”
I immediately could tell that this kid Stevie had a comfortable enough relationship with Ray that he could talk back to him.
Stevie paused and then said, “Fuck you, Ray! Why don’t you do him a favor and take him back to where you found him?”
While Stevie and Ray argued, I was thinking: I’m in deep shit. These are the kids Ray wants to leave me with? I am in deep shit.
As the back-and-forth between them continued, the other kid, who looked to be about my age, walked around to my side of the van and looked at me through my open window. I looked back at him and he smiled at me. He had long, wavy, unkempt blond hair and buckteeth—maybe it was just an overbite. His beautiful blue eyes were distant yet full of life.
Before I could crank up the window he said cheerfully, “Hi, I’m Squirrel.” He pronounced it Shquirrel. “What’s your name?” he asked.
As cranky and scared as I was, I immediately liked Squirrel. He was too lovable and comical to not like immediately.
I gave a weak smile and said in a whispery voice, “Um, hi. I’m Kevin.”
“He can shtay with us!” Squirrel yelled, cutting into the bickering on the other side of the van. Then he looked at Stevie with a can-I-keep-him-please expression on his face.
“I’ll stay here. I don’t mind,” I said. I think I actually surprised Ray.
Ray and Stevie glanced at each other, and as they shrugged off whatever disagreement they previously had, I opened the van’s creaky passenger door. I stepped out and sat down on the curb. Ray flashed me a stern look, shifted the van to drive, and pulled away from the park.
Tower Grove Park is a city park in the southwest corner of St. Louis. Today, the area neighborhoods have gentrified gracefully and the park is quite beautiful. It is filled with lovely flower gardens, and certain sections of the park are made to evoke ancient Greek or Roman ruins. But in 1975, it was a rough area. By rough, I mean you had to be careful walking around after dark, especially if you were alone. I soon realized that the park was also famous for playing host to many young male hustlers. Even though I came to recognize many familiar faces lingering around over the next few months, I never really got to know any others except Stevie and Squirrel.
So there I was, sitting between Stevie and Squirrel on the curb of the circle in Tower Grove Park. Squirrel sat very close to me. He hooked his arm in mine as he chatted away, doing his best to make me feel more at home. He began asking me a flurry of questions: “Where do you go to school? Do you collect baseball cards? Have you ever been to Courtesy? I like their malts. Do you?”
As I got to know him, I came to understand that Squirrel was unembarrassedly a demonstrative, affectionate person, not unlike a small child. Whenever he spoke, he would take hold of my arm or my hand, or would just simply lay his head on my shoulder. At this time, we were arm in arm. It made me feel strange at first, but I got used to it quickly.
Squirrel had a high-pitched, squeaky voice (our voices hadn’t even changed yet) and a classic south St. Louis accent. For instance, he pronounced the word four as far. Like, I’m driving down highway farty-far. We would eat meals with a fark. Squirrel and I had similar accents and ways of saying things. We drank soda. We ate ice cream sundas, but if we went to church, it was on a Sun-day. Get in that over there sounded like get in dat over dere.
Stevie’s accent was different. It definitely wasn’t a St. Louis accent. When he talked, it sounded more southwestern—what I imagined to be a Texas or Oklahoma twang. Stevie also looked different than Squirrel. He was taller, more muscular, and handsome, while Squirrel was just cute. Stevie’s look was a cross between a high school football star and Mick Jagger. Later, I saw that from time to time he liked to wear overalls without a shirt. Not because he was from the country, but because when he did, people could see how well he was built. Normally, he would wear a pair of Levi’s bell-bottom jeans and a T-shirt. He had brown mid-length hair.
As Squirrel chatted away, interrogating me about my life, Stevie sat there transfixed; he seemed to be enjoying Squirrel’s friendly grilling. When I finally could get a word in edgewise, I said that I went to Hazelwood Junior High.
“What?!” Stevie yelled. “You live out there? Kid, what the hell are you doing all the way in the city?!”
Squirrel seemed confused. “What? Why? Where’s that?”
Stevie ignored him and continued, “You don’t belong here, kid. That’s all I got to say.”
This halted the conversation for an uncomfortable moment.
If I don’t belong, then what am I doing here?
I cleared my throat and the silence receded.
I said, “So, Stevie . . . where do you go to school?”
“How old are you?”
“Do you ever—”
“You done asking questions?”
“Yeah. Sorry.” I wasn’t sorry though. I guess I wanted to know where this was all leading. Before I could add anything, Stevie decided to ask me his own question.
“Where did Ray take you tonight?”
“Some guy named Jim.”
The two guys looked at each other, smiled, and shook their heads.
“Nice house with a big kitchen?” Stevie asked. I nodded.
Stevie said with disgust in his voice, “Yeah, I know that guy.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said. At least I had something in common with these boys.
“Did he want to do it on his kid’s bed?” Squirrel asked.
I assume Squirrel asked the question already knowing the answer. I suppose he wanted to confirm in his mind that I found it just as repulsive as he did.
“Yeah, he did,” I said. “The guy must be pretty rich, having a big house and all.”
Stevie said, matter-of-factly, “He is. He’s a lawyer, you know.” He added, “You know what a lawyer is?”
“Yeah, I know what a lawyer is,” I said, without knowing the whole of it.
I wanted to come across as confident. But I’m pretty sure both those guys could see through that. They were tough St. Louis kids. City kids. They knew what the world was about. I didn’t know the whole story then, but it grew increasingly evident as I spent time with them.
As for me, all I did was worry. The thing that helped get me through was a silver-plated cross hanging from a silver chain I always wore around my neck. That first night I spent with my new friends was the first time I remember rubbing it.
A year earlier, my mom and I had been shopping together for clothes, when I found myself looking at a jewelry counter. What grabbed my attention was that silver cross necklace. It was pretty and simple—no adornments, just a shiny silver cross. My mom saw how much I liked it, and even though she was normally pretty frugal, decided to buy it for me.
Even then I had an interest in the divine, even religion. I remember being around twelve or thirteen when it dawned on me that the universe is without end, boundless. That usually scares people, but for me it made all things possible. If the universe is infinite, I’m a part of something bigger, something without end. I realized, like many people, that there was a connection between us and the Infinite, some purpose for existence.
I remember my first time seeing an image of Jesus. It was a painting hanging on a wall at my grandma’s house, a graphic depiction of Jesus dying on the cross. I think Grandma was trying to teach me who Jesus was and that I should love him. It failed to dawn on her that an image of a horribly brutalized and bloody man being executed on a cross might not be the best evangelism for a four-year-old kid. It wasn’t a nuanced approach, but it was what she thought she was supposed to do.
Little did I realize that image of suffering would eventually be the reason I could later accept and understand Jesus as God, my God. The idea that a man who took on suffering was God later fascinated me and, ultimately, comforted me. Maybe Grandma wasn’t so wrong in her approach after all.
I wore the shiny new cross around my neck constantly and took special care of it. The night after my first “trick,” sitting there and talking with Stevie and Squirrel, I remember holding that cross between my thumb and forefinger. I rubbed it for comfort. By the end of that summer, I had worn most of the silver off the cross, right down to the brass underneath.
Stevie, Squirrel, and I sat talking that evening as the sun set. Around dusk, a car drove around the circle and parked a distance from the three of us. The car’s engine idled steadily for a moment and then its headlights went out. A middle-aged man exited, walked in our direction, and looked right at us while he approached. He walked past us toward the pavilion.
Squirrel looked at Stevie.
Stevie said, “Yeah . . . go ahead.”
Stevie looked at me and said, “You. Go with him.”
Squirrel seemed to agree. He said, “Yeah, come on . . . some of them like it when another kid watches.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about, but I followed him. The two of us went across the pavilion next to the fountain, then over to the men’s restroom. As soon as I entered, I noticed the sinks; one was clogged and overflowing, with water spilling onto the floor. To the right were two sets of old, stained urinals, three on each side. In the back were some stalls that were covered with spray paint and graffiti.
As Squirrel and the man walked toward the stalls, I heard Squirrel ask him something.
“You, me? Or me, you?”
The man said in a gruff, nervous tone, “You do me.”
Squirrel responded in a monotone voice, almost automatically: “Twenty-five bucks.”
Squirrel went to work right in front of me.
This was now officially the strangest day of my young life.
I eventually turned my back as Squirrel finished, which was evident by the sounds I was hearing. It was disconcerting, but I think what really bothered me was the way the strange man was touching Squirrel. The guy stroked his hair while Squirrel did his business. It was a sign of affection, but it was fake; it was only a pretense of what people who really love each other do. I didn’t like seeing it. It made me mad. The guy shouldn’t even have been touching anyone Squirrel’s age, but it was the fact that he was touching him that turned my stomach. The man finally left the stall and walked past me, followed by a smiling Squirrel holding up twenty-five dollars—his hard-earned reward.
As we walked out, I noticed that there was something matting up Squirrel’s hair. Stevie was waiting for us as we came out of the men’s room, and as soon as he saw Squirrel, he said in a peculiar, almost motherly, voice, “Dammit, Squirrel, you’ve got cum in your hair!” Stevie took Squirrel’s arm and led him back into the restroom. Like a mother caring for her child, Stevie held Squirrel’s head over the sink and gently washed his hair with the restroom hand soap. The scene resembled a pastor baptizing a kid at church, except for the fact that Stevie kept cursing at Squirrel.
“There you go, kid,” Stevie said, pulling several paper towels from a dispenser, handing them to Squirrel.
“Thanks.” Squirrel smiled.
I realize now, of course, that the day I had just experienced should not be a day ever experienced by any kid. There was nothing normal about it. But, for some reason, I felt at home with Stevie and Squirrel. I knew what they did, they both knew what I did, and we were all OK with each other. That was priceless. When I saw the kindness and tenderness that Stevie showed to Squirrel as he washed his hair, I knew these were the friends I had always dreamed of having. This was love and compassion, even in the hellish circumstances around us. When I think back, I realize that my understanding of grace was forged in my ordeal with those two boys.
* * * * *
Copies of Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking are available at Barnes and Noble.com and Amazon.com. Signed copies, more information about the book, and details about the 2015 book tour, can be found on the authors’ website.
R. Kevin Kline is an ordained parish pastor in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) in St. Louis. He recently received approval as a mission developer and plans to foster relationships with other organizations to raise awareness about the ongoing issues of justice in the LGBTQ community. He is a proud parent to his son, Scott.
Daniel D. Maurer was an ELCA pastor for 11 years, serving parishes in western North Dakota. He’s now a freelance writer and writes under the “Dan the Story Man” brand. His first book, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel, was published in 2014. Maurer also ghostwrites for a professional chef in Chicago and creates curricula for Sparkhouse, the ecumenical division of Augsburg Fortress (the official publishing house of the ECLA). Maurer lives with his wife and family in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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