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Cyntoia Brown

Why Rihanna, Kim K & more call for Cyntoia Brown to be free

A young victim of sex trafficking and years of abuse was imprisoned on a life sentence for killing a man

Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to life in prison at just 16-years-old in 2004, for killing a man who paid to have sex with her. Now, celebrity allies like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian have reignited concern for her case.

The trial saw Brown admit to killing the man, but the story that emerged illustrated a horrific life the young woman led up to that point.

Brown was living with ‘Cut-Throat’, a man than made her a sex slave and pimped her out to men. She was abused and raped at gunpoint repeatedly across years. In 2004, she was picked up by 43-year-old Johnny Allen, and taken to his house for sex. Fearing what she thought was strange behaviour, his military background and a house with numerous guns, she took a gun from her bag and shot him in the head.

She was tried as an adult for the murder, and sentenced to life in prison with possibility for parole in 51 years.

During her trial she detailed the physical, sexual and psychological abuse that was inflicted on her for years. Her defence argued that what she experienced led to her actions. 

“Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna wrote on a now-viral Instagram post that details Brown’s case.

Kim Kardashian wrote on Twitter: “The system has failed. It’s heartbreaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life. We have to do better and do what’s right.”

Kardashian added that she had spoken to her own legal team to see what could be done for Brown.

Laurie Schaffner, a sociologist whose study is quoted in a Prison Culture report, details that “young women adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court report suffering inordinate amounts of emotional, physical, and sexual trauma in early childhood and adolescence.”

Several studies, like that of Moore and Padavic back in 2010, found that black girls receive harsher punishments that their white counterparts. The system is horrifically broken. 

In the years she has spent in prison, Brown has completed her associate’s degree and works as a volunteer consultant in the Juvenile Justice System, according to Ebony

A documentaryMe Facing Life: Seeking Redemption in Cyntoia’s Story, influenced how the justice system deals with sex trafficking cases in 2011. After her story was broadcast, policy was set in motion and implemented so anyone under 18 cannot be charged with prostitution in Tennessee.

The doc follows Brown’s story for seven years, detailing that she is the third generation in her family who is a rape survivor.

Brown is now 29-years-old, having spent almost 13 years in prison. A petition to get a presidential pardon has gained almost 207,000 signatures, and will be sent to Congress.