And the women and men in his Family were victims
On March 21, 1967, 32-year old Charles ‘Charlie’ Manson was released from Terminal Island, a federal correction institute in Southern California. Manson had served nearly two decades in prisons, jails and youth detention centers on charges including petty larceny, auto theft, check fraud and pimping. Less than three years after his ’67 release, Charlie was again in a jail cell, where he spent the rest of his miserable life.
During an earlier stint at Terminal, Charlie sought mentorship from the pimps. They coached him on how to control girls but warned Manson to stay away from the nuttier ones.
Manson was first released from Terminal in the fall of 1958. While on release in Los Angeles, Charlie began pimping. Pimping cemented Charlie’s opinion of the fairer sex. He’d clearly developed a deep-seated resentment toward women and felt that not only was it his right to ‘knock them down a peg’ but that women actually required such treatment for them to function as the good Lord intended.
He went back to prison on mail fraud and check forging charges, and was released in 1967. He wound up in San Francisco, where he hoped to launch a music career.
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If Charlie had any plans to start pimping in San Francisco, it would have been a moot point. Thanks to the pill, everybody was giving it away for free. He couldn’t sell sex here. But maybe he could peddle something else. This is how and why the Family was created. He used sex to get what he really wanted.
In order to demonstrate how Manson was a sex trafficker, I’m going to go through the list of Family members:
Mary Brunner: (the first member of the Family, met Manson in Spring 1967 and gave birth to his son a year later): invited Manson to stay on her couch and when he hit on her, she declined. The next day when she was at work, he went and got all his belongings and brought them to her house. When she started to protest that evening, he argued that she needed him.
He promised to help her out, give her rent money, keep any bad guys away and not bother her for sex (like a good pimp initially would). Mary agreed to these terms and according to all accounts, they got on quite well together.
They got on so well that when Charlie brought home a 16-year old runaway days later, Mary merely warned him to be careful due to the girl’s age. Sure enough, Manson and ‘Darlene’ began having sex shortly after. But when Manson walked in on Darlene and another man screwing, he turned on the water works with Mary. He poured out his heart to his benefactor, until she was practically begging for sex.
Ruth Ann Moorehouse: the 14-year old daughter of a former pastor who picked Manson up hitchhiking. Charlie had sex with her in the summer of 1967, and convinced her to become emancipated within the year so she could leave her family and join his Family.
Ruth Ann ditched the husband she swindled into marrying a few months before and joined them in the spring of 1968, while they were staying at Dennis Wilson’s (the drummer of the Beach Boys). When Ruth Ann arrived, Manson whisked her into Dennis’ bedroom for sex. The teen was turned off when Charlie also invited another girl (Lynette Fromme) to join them, but Ruth didn’t say no. Over the next few months, the dark-haired adolescent found herself the object of many men’s attentions and was often used as Charlie’s pawn. He would lure a man with the promise of sex with lovely Ruth Ann, getting them to agree to him, or he’d withhold Ruth Ann until he got what he wanted from one of her many admirers.
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Lynette Fromme: Met Manson after she got kicked out of her father’s house. When manipulating women into a life of prostitution, pimps master the art of getting into a girl’s head, discovering her specific ticks, her foibles, her fears and then using them to break the girl down. The goal is to make them less susceptible to the influences that came before the pimp arrived in their life. Daddy issues were particularly prevalent in the 1960’s. Charlie could easily assume that a girl may be manipulated by telling her that she didn’t deserve the father she had. In Lynette’s case however, he was right.
Charlie also encouraged Lynette to sleep with 79-year old George Spahn, the blind owner of Spahn Ranch, so the Family could stay there for free. Lyn (who was 19) also got access to Spahn’s bank accounts after they were sleeping together.
Patricia Krenwinkel: she and her sister invited Charlie to sleep on their Manhattan Beach apartment’s couch and the next thing she knew, she was in love with Manson. He told her she was beautiful, something nobody else had ever told her.
During their first weeks together, Pat (along with Mary and Lynette) were driven by Charlie to a brothel in Reno. The experience was unpleasant, with Pat hassled by her john. Charlie gave up the pimping and they went back on the road.
But he continued to be a trafficker, using his powers of coercion to force the women and teen girls (and even the men) to use sex to get what HE wanted.
Pat became a mother figure to the other women, and often took care of the Family’s children. Charlie kept her on a short leash, punishing her for supposed infractions but reminding her that she was nothing without him. He also became abusive.
“I remember when I laughed at him once and he jerked me by the hair and said, ‘You won’t ever laugh at me again.’ … When we were out in the woods… he threw knives over my head, he threw hatchets over my head into a tree… He, at times, gave me to other people to use for sex… The idea was to let you know that he always had that control.” — Patricia Krenwinkel, from her 2004 Parole Hearing
Pat Krenwinkel obeyed Manson right up to committing murder for him. Years after she was incarcerated, she finally began to question Manson’s authority. It was largely due to her friendship with another inmate, a woman who had killed a minister in the course of a robbery but who, like Krenwinkel, had been trafficked. That woman, Jean Oliver Carver told her to disregard the many ways that Pat considered Charlie ‘magic’:
“Carver would say, ‘Honey, those are all old tricks. He sounds just like dozens of men I’ve known — hustlers, pimps, convicts’.” — The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder by Nikki Meredith ©2018 Citadel Press
Susan Atkins: Charlie used pimping tactics to encourage her to steal. He didn’t ask her to steal credit cards. He just said they needed credit cards and then looked at her and told her to only do what she wanted to do.
This is shady pimp behavior at its finest. You tell a girl that you need something. You tell her it’s her choice. But you let her believe that something more important than the two of you is driving this need. And you make damn sure she knows that the decision and consequences are hers alone.
This is why prostitutes and call girls often get arrested for their crimes and pimps rarely do.
Dianne Lake: She was just 13 years old when she met Manson. She had been molested as a child and was very developed physically, often attracting the attention of older men. Dianne’s parents agreed to let her live with a couple in a polyamorous situation, and she’d been in and out of communes and group sex situations for a year.
Charlie encouraged the members of his Family to take part in orgies and same-sex pairings.
“Being with another girl also made me more marketable. The more skilled and experienced I was sexually, the more valuable I was as a currency of exchange. For Charlie, sex was always about the pleasing of a man, and because men found two women having sex together to be a sexual thrill, there was value in our ability to perform. And I think that is why Charlie wanted to make sure we knew how to do it properly. In reality, I don’t think Charlie wanted us girls to think about each other sexually, except as a way to break down barriers and express his control over us.” — Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties by Dianne Lake, Deborah Herman ©2017 William Morrow
Sandra Good: Left San Francisco and her boyfriend to join the Family. Her first night with the Charlie and the others was celebrated with an orgy. She became his new favorite cutie, thanks to a trust fund she donated to the Family.
Paul Watkins: Even the men were trafficked. Paul, short, cute and rather elfin in appearance, was less threatening than 33-year old Manson. Charlie sent Paul into high schools to rustle up jailbait for the Family.
Several of the men in the Family had been molested as children, and many claimed this made them susceptible to a pimp and trafficker like Manson.
Charles Watson: the chief assassin of the Manson Family (he personally murdered seven people — all of the Tate/LaBianca victims) was given his choice of women to sleep with during his first months at Spahn Ranch in summer 1968. Mary Brunner, who had just given birth months earlier to Manson’s son, was placed at Watson’s side. Tex, as Watson was known, later claimed he knew little about her.
Charlie sometimes pressured men to perform oral or anal sex on one another. For them it was about coercion — getting them to submit to his power. After years in prison, he was comfortable ‘making do’ with any partner available but he knew it freaked out these formerly clean-cut kids to go down on another man. He knew if he could get them to do that, he could get them to do anything.
In his memoir Will You Die For Me?, Tex claimed that we’ve got it wrong about the group sex. He said the women were too busy to participate, and they had to have more women than men to make it pleasurable. He also claims he never witnessed any homosexuality, but Charlie was trying to hang onto Watson — he showed him preferential treatment.
Catherine Share: She remembered her first introduction to Manson:
“He was in a beaten-down Chevy. He wore a cowboy hat and had a beard. He wanted us to go swimming… We drove to Pacific Palisades and pulled up to the gate of a huge glass-and-log home. It was Dennis Wilson’s house. The cowboy said, ‘This is your dream, isn’t it, girl?’ Then he turned around and looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Start living it.’ He punched in numbers, and we went onto grounds with peacocks and eucalyptus trees and a pool on a cliff where beautiful men and women were swimming, some in suits, some topless… I went into a bathroom to change, and this person walks up to me and he’s no longer a cowboy. He has freshly washed chestnut hair… wearing an open silk kimono and harem pants. He looked like a rock star, and he introduced himself like we’d never met: ‘Hello, I’m Charlie Manson.’ I went to Spahn Ranch that night… Charlie now wore a cream-colored robe, and his hair was down. He looked like Christ… He made me his woman right away. That’s how it happened with all the new girls.” — Catherine Share quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine
Share was older (about 26 years old) and Manson trained her to become one of his primary recruiters. She was told to look for attractive young women, particularly those who might have money, credit cards or vehicles they could get from their wealthy parents. Share soon introduced Charlie to Leslie Van Houten.
Leslie Van Houten: Both Share and Van Houten were dating Bobby Beausoleil, a musician Manson met in early 1968. Manson was very enamored of Beausoleil and wanted him to join the Family full-time, something Bobby was reluctant to do. Van Houten, in particular, felt that Charlie was pressuring her to keep Bobby with them and when she failed to do that, there was hell to pay. Leslie joined Watson and Krenwinkel at the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a married couple murdered by the Family in August 1969. She was too terrified to leave and when Watson held a knife on her, she stabbed Mrs. LaBianca (already dead) sixteen or seventeen times in the low back and buttocks.
While serving a life sentence in prison, Leslie was visited by Catherine Share who apologized deeply for ‘recruiting’ her.
Linda Kasabian: She was a young mother in an unhappy marriage when she met Catherine Share in June 1969. She brought her young daughter with her to Spahn Ranch and then stole $5000 from a friend to donate to Manson. She also joined the killers at Cielo Drive, the home of Sharon Tate, but did not actively participate in murder that night.
Sherry Cooper: She was a 15-year old local girl who got a summer job in 1969 working at Spahn Ranch. The Manson Family initiated Cooper with a group orgy that verged on rape. According to later testimony by Linda Kasabian, she saw Manson try to perform intercourse with the girl, who bit him. Charlie slapped her in the face, knocked her down, and engaged in an undetermined sexual act. He then told the male and female members of the Family to engage in sexual acts with Sherry. They each took off their clothes as directed and followed his orders.
After the murders, when the Family fled to Death Valley, Charlie’s abuse and control grew worse. That fall, Charlie tried to force Sherry Cooper to perform oral sex on one of the men. Sherry refused and Charlie beat her soundly for her insubordination. He then forced Barbara Hoyt, a 17-year old girl, to do what Sherry refused and in fear for her safety, Hoyt complied.
When you stop looking at Charlie’s followers like monsters and start to see them as trafficking victims, it makes sense. His trafficking, by the way, continued after he was found guilty of murder and sent to prison.
Because his crimes were so high profile and he felt at risk from the black population in prison, Charlie sought protection from the Aryan Brotherhood, a whites-only prison gang (and an offshoot of the Aryan Nation, a white supremacist organization). He ordered the Manson Family women to send nude photographs of themselves to AB members who were in jail. Some of them were also partnered with AB members who got released from prison.
Charlie used drugs, group sex and behavioral modification on the young people he drew around him until most of these young people were stripped of their identities and their conscience.
Many of these people also had been abused or broken by their biological families long before they met Charlie.
“One of the most uncomfortable truths presented to us by the members of the Family is that their families of origin were also characterized by numerous broken taboos and trespasses of various significant boundaries.” — Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America’s Most Infamous Family by Jeffrey Melnick ©2018 Arcade Publishing
Susan Atkins was molested by her older brother. Ruth Ann may have been molested by her father. Both Bruce Davis (another killer) and Bobby Beausoleil were molested as preteens by older men. Manson himself was raped as a teenager.
This is important because whether you believe that members of the Manson Family who killed on Charlie’s orders should remain in prison or be released, you must identify them as victims. If you have sympathy for Cyntoia Brown or others who have killed to protect themselves from pimps and abusers, you should have sympathy also for Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and the other Manson Family killers.
It’s time to identify them as sex trafficking victims, and Charles Manson as a pimp and a trafficker.