On Thursday, Cyntoia Brown, who was sex-trafficked as a child, received a life prison sentence for killing her alleged attacker. She was a teenager when she was convicted and the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that she will only be eligible for release after 51 years.
According to her lawyers, Cyntoia Brown was raped, beaten and sex trafficked in 2004 by a pimp known as ‘Cut Throat’, who she thought was her boyfriend. She was a minor (under the age of consent) when child predator, Johnny Allen (43), allegedly took her to his house intending to rape her in exchange for money. According to Cyntoia’s testimony, he had shown her multiple guns in his house. When she thought he was reaching for one to shoot her, she grabbed a gun and shot him first.
After facing a childhood marked by sexual abuse, Cyntoia Brown was arrested at 16 years old for trying to protect herself. For killing a predator she believed was going to kill her.
Sex trafficking is a global, illegal trade. It’s happening in South Africa too, and women and children are among the most targeted victims:
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) June 19, 2018
Various women’s rights groups and celebrities, including Rihanna, the Women’s March, LeBron James and Kim Kardashian have called for her release, using their platforms to critique the justice system and raise awareness around sex trafficking:
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did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE along the way?? cause….. Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life! To each of you responsible for this child’s sentence I hope to God you don’t have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already! #FREECYNTOIABROWN #HowManyMore
Cyntoia Brown was tried as an adult. She’s already served 14 years in prison for first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Her advocates have mentioned that white people are often handed lighter sentences than people of colour, in the justice system. For example, Jeffrey Epstein (fifty-four-year-old millionaire hedge fund manager) was sentenced to only 13 months in prison after allegedly trafficking minors for six years in his mansion.
A lawsuit was filed, arguing that a life sentence ruling was unconstitutional for minors, according to a 2012 Supreme Court ruling. However, not all states in the US have banned lifetime sentences for children. This includes Tennessee. A District Court in Tennessee noted that Brown received “a life sentence, not a sentence of life without the possibility of parole”.
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) December 9, 2018
This #CyntoiaBrown verdict is the epitome of injustice!! This young survivor of sexual violence who was trafficked and murdered a man trying to rape her in self defense has to serve FIFTY ONE years before she is even eligible for parole? https://t.co/zo96IOTxKM
— Me Too (@MeTooMVMT) December 8, 2018
Cyntoia will be in her late sixties by the time she is eligible for parole. She has appealed the decision.