Katie Lang is the last person you’d expect to be drawn into a prostitution ring.
Living on the Gold Coast at 22, she grew up in a world of privilege. She had an excellent education, a job she loved, a supportive family and great friends.
Her life was panning out just the way she intended – and then she met Damion Baston at a nightclub.
“It was almost like there was like… it sounds weird, but like a light above him, and he just stood out. I was just kind of drawn to him,” Katie says of her first time meeting Damion.
She didn’t know that Damion would eventually force her to work as a stripper and a prostitute overseas, watching on while her captor manipulated more women into his criminal ring.
Five years after she met Damion, Katie would barely escape a life as his prisoner.
It’s a sequence of events that nobody – not Katie, not her family, not her friends – could possibly foresee.
On an episode of 60 Minutes, Katie spoke to Tara Brown about how she fell for Damion’s charms, how attached she was to her captor, and how her family banded together to save her life.
While Katie’s story might seem surprising given her background, she is far from the first woman to fall victim to a pimp.
The tactics used by criminals of Damion’s kind are tried and tested – so tried and tested, in fact, that they’ve been documented in a book called Pimpology, which sets out a series of steps for the successful manipulation of young woman.
Step one: Intimidation and control through extreme violence.
The first time Damion physically assaulted Katie, he punched her in the stomach out of nowhere.
“I fell on the ground and he picked me up and he just started strangling me,” Katie told 6o Minutes.
“And then he just grabbed me by the hair and just started banging my head against the window, and he’s just like, ‘Just shut the f**k up.'”
Once it began, the violence didn’t stop. If anything, it escalated.
“He pressed the hot knife up against my throat, and I felt like he was going to slit my throat, so I jumped up and he just threw me back down,” Katie recalls.
“He kept strangling me, and eventually I was just screaming.”
Step two: Mental torment.
Damion’s physical threats didn’t stop at Katie’s own safety.
“He always used to say, you know, ‘I know where your grandma lives,'” Katie said.
As a member of a criminal gang in the United States, Damion was clear that Katie’s family were in danger if she tried to leave him, telling her he’d arrange to have her family killed.
Step three: Rape.
Katie can’t recall how many times she was raped by Damion, only that it always followed violence.
“He very much enjoyed beating me up and then having sex,” Katie told Tara Brown.
“When you’re crying and someone’s trying to have sex with you, I just… I can’t get my head around it, how someone can be enjoying that.”
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Step four: Prostitution.
With such an extreme level of emotional and physical control over Katie, forcing her to make the jump into prostitution was simple for Damion.
“I think once the violence started, I couldn’t see a way out ‘cause I was so fearful of him not only hurting me but hurting my family,” Katie says of her transition from girlfriend to prostitution.
Damion set up his Gold Coast unit as a brothel, and pimped out Katie and two other women for money. He had a “role” for each of his captive women, with Katie carrying the burden of being the homemaker.
“My role was to look after him,” she told 60 Minutes.
“You know, I’d have to cook for him. In his head, he believed that he was he was the dominant male, and we all had to look after him, and in return he’d look after us.”
Deluded and manipulative, Damion would buy his “girlfriends” expensive gifts when they behaved.
When Damion proposed to Katie out of the blue, she felt compelled to say yes out of fear.
It turned out to be the beginnings of an even more sinister plan – to transport Katie to Dubai where she could earn more money in exchange for sex. In some of her home videos from her time in Dubai, Katie even manages to look like she’s enjoying herself – but, as she explained to 60 Minutes, she had quickly learned to act happy or face the consequences.
“It was either be happy or get beaten,” she says.
Soon after the move to Dubai, Damion moved Katie on to Miami, where she was forced to work twelve hours a day, seven days a week as a stripper in a Miami nightclub.
“I never thought that I’d end up in a position like that,” Katie says of working as a stripper and a prostitute in Miami.
“And I let him control me at the end. And I nearly gave up. I nearly gave up to… I wanted to kill myself at times. I wanted to kill him at times.”
Katie’s chance at escape came when her American Visa finally expired, and she convinced Damion to let her return to Australian to renew it legally. But her time under Damion’s influence had taken hold, and, displaying symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome, Katie failed to tell her family about the abuse.
Instead, she told them she’d been working as a prostitute overseas by choice.
“I felt like doing that would have stopped anyone going after [Damion],” she reflects.
Despite the terrible ordeal she’d suffered at Damion’s hands, Katie went so far as to renew her visa and book flights back to Miami to meet him.
Luckily for Katie, her family didn’t believe her story. Thinking quickly, her parents contacted the American Embassy, described the situation and got Katie put on a no-fly list.
Australian and US authorities immediately launched an investigation into Damion.
Naturally, Katie was terrified – not so much for her own safety, but for her family’s, which Damion had so often threatened. She initially resisted telling the police the full story, but eventually broke down.
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Police were astonished at the extent of Damion’s crimes, and in 2014, Katie was called as the key witness at his trial.
Despite the defence claiming that Katie was the mastermind behind the prostitution ring – a claim countered by multiple other women who had also been under Damion’s power – Damion was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
“I have to admit, it is very satisfying,” Katie says of Damion’s conviction.
“Because of the control that he had over us and the confinement he made us experience, the girls and I. To know that he’s experiencing that confinement for the next 27 years is very satisfying.”