By now you may have heard about Cyntoia Brown, a young woman who is serving a life sentence for the murder of a Nashville man in 2004. In 2004, Brown was only 16 years-old, and living not with a parent, relative, or even a friend but her pimp. Cyntoia Brown was a child sex-trafficking victim, and this case is not new.
Cyntoia’s story plays out like many other sex trafficked victims. Brown was a runaway, but rather than find love with the 24-year-old boyfriend she moved in with, she was abused, raped, and forced into sex work.
“He would explain to me that some people were born whores, and that I was one, and I was a slut, and nobody’d want me but him, and the best thing I could do was just learn to be a good whore,” Brown testified at a 2012 hearing.
In 2004, Cyntoia killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, in self-defense, after he paid her for sex. When Allen reached for what she believed to be a firearm, she grabbed a gun from her purse and shot Allen in the back of the head.
Brown was tried as an adult, and convicted of first-degree murder in 2006, receiving a life sentence for her defending herself. Although she has been in jail for over ten years, her case is only just receiving media attention, despite a 2011 documentary that aired on PBS exploring the injustices surrounding her case.
Sadly, Cyntoia is not the first victim in her family—her mother, Gina Mitchell, became pregnant at 16. By this age, she had already been raped. Gina used alcohol to cope with her past abuse—during, and after her pregnancy. Cyntoia only lived with Gina for two years before she was given up for adoption to a family friend, Ellenette Brown. It wasn’t long before Gina turned to crack cocaine and then prostitution after giving up Cyntoia for adoption. Cyntoia’s grandmother, also, was victim of sexual abuse and assault, having had Gina out of rape.
Systemic oppression and trauma is a reality and heartbreakingly Cyntoia Brown is one of many young women who become victims of sex trafficking, only to also become trapped by injustice.
Brown is hopeful for change, and since her sentence has received an Associate’s Degree and is also working on her Bachelor’s Degree.
Thanks to renewed attention to her case and the advocacy of some major celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, the chances of Cyntoia Brown’s release are looking much better.
You can sign and share Cyntoia’s campaign for release by going here.