Jaycee Dugard got a $21 million settlement from California, a book deal and a two-hour, prime-time interview with Diane Sawyer Sunday night. Kristen Stillman got a bill from Denver County and a story in the August Glamour, hyped on the contents page -- under a story on jeans that make you slimmer and "10 Great New Ways to Wear Your Hair Now" -- titled "I Was a Sex Prisoner in His House of Torture for 12 Years."
I first told Kristen Stillman's story last September, when she was finally free of the Torrez family. Told how, when she and her twin brother, Will, were just eight, their mother dropped them at a house in northwest Denver, where they became prisoners of Eric Torrez and his family for a dozen years, subjected to psychological, physical and sexual torture. Told how, frozen into thinking this was the only life they could know, the only life they deserved, they finally escaped only after Kristen learned that her oldest child -- the fourth child she'd had before she turned twenty, all fathered by Eric Torrez -- was being abused by Eric's father.
And then, after they found a police officer who believed their story and helped put Eric Torrez behind bars for 300 years, they had to start building lives on a foundation that had never known normal. The task was so daunting that Kristen reluctantly realized that she had to let her children go for their own good, so that they might have some kind of normal life -- but in the meantime, Denver County social services, which had done nothing to help her when she was a child, was dunning her for their foster care. That bill was finally dropped last fall, but the challenges remain.
Even without comparisons to Jaycee Dugard, who was held hostage for eighteen years and gave birth to two children while in captivity, it's a horrific story. But it was the Dugard connection that intrigued Glamour.
Here's the start of the Glamour story on Will and Kristen Stillman:
This past June, America watched as Phillip Garrido -- the man who'd kidnapped California preteen Jaycee Dugard, raped her and became the father of her children -- was sentenced to 431 years to life in prison. More details of Dugard's harrowing time trapped in Garrido's squalid backyard compound are sure to be revealed in her memoir this summer, but as troubling as her story is, we've all taken some comfort in the belief that a case like hers happens only once in a lifetime.
If only it were so.
Kristen and Will Stillman's story hasn't made national headlines or magazine covers, partly because, while Dugard's parents searched frantically and vocally for her, no one was looking for the Stillman twins.
No one was looking for them, and even when they tried to describe what was happening, no one was listening...
When Kristen told her story, it was not for money, not for notoriety, but in the hope that the next time a child tries to find help, someone would listen.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Qwest sign lights to go out: Will fireworks at Elitch Gardens fizzle next?"
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.