Recent Media Frenzy
Recent news stories have gone viral about a young woman named Cyntoia Brown. Perhaps you’ve heard of Brown, but I hadn’t. I clicked on the story with a featured image of a young woman in an orange jumpsuit with her hair in two braids. The headline read that she was serving a life sentence for killing a man who had purchased her for sex.
Although Brown’s trial was years ago (13 years ago to be exact seeing as her case was in 2004), her story has gained more media coverage. Singer Rihanna is largely to thank for the new resurgent of media frenzy surrounding this case. Yesterday, Rihanna posted a statement calling for her followers to imagine being pimped out at sixteen, gaining the courage to fight for your freedom, and then given a life sentence.
Cyntoia Brown ran away from home at the age of sixteen. She met a then 24 year old man by the name of Cut Throat who allowed her to move in with him. Brown soon found herself the victim of mental, verbal, and physical abuse as well as rape all at the hands of her boyfriend, Cut Throat. Amplifying the severity of Cyntoia’s experience with Cut Throat, she was forced to prostitute herself.
In a 2012 appeal hearing, Cyntoia stated that Cut Throat would often tell her, “...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.” The fragile mind of an adolescent should never hear something so vile.
The Night Of The Crime
After being drugged and repeatedly raped by Cut Throat and a number of other rapists, A child predator -- Johnny Allen -- bought her, took her back to his home, and used her for sex. The jury was told that Cyntoia shot Allen in the head and then fled the scene stealing his wallet and his truck. Although those aspects of the story are true, the jury never received the bigger picture.
Cyntoia, then a sixteen year old child, was afraid for her life. She feared that Johnny Allen would do more than have sex with her. As Allen began touching her underneath the covers on his bed, Cyntoia stated that she thought he was reaching for a gun. That’s when she pulled a .40-caliber gun from her purse and shot him.
After shooting Allen, Brown grabbed his pants which had his wallet full of money in them, stole his truck and drove to a Walmart where she had someone pick her up. After being told this information, the jury acquiesced with the prosecutors resulting in a life sentence for Cyntoia Brown.
The Full Story
Sure, Cyntoia’s account doesn’t match the description of the crime scene -- since Allen seemed to have been sleeping when he was shot in the back of the head -- but again, she was a sixteen year-old victim of sex trafficking. Aside from fearing for her life, Cyntoia Brown has a serious neurodevelopmental disorder due to her mother’s relentless alcohol consumption during her pregnancy.
Brown’s attorney argued that this neurodevelopmental disorder was the cause of her behavior on the day that she killed Allen. This information was withheld from the jury. We can only hope that if the violent, hateful actions of neo-nazi terrorists like Dylan Roof and Devin Patrick Kelley -- who the New York Times bafflingly refer to as ‘Mr. Kelley’ -- can be justified due to mental disorders, then perhaps Cyntoia Brown’s actions would have been justified for the same reason.
What’s To Come?
Since receiving her life sentence, Cyntoia has been a ‘model prisoner’. She has earned her Associate’s Degree and has been a mentor to many women. A myriad of celebrities including Rihanna, T.I., and Kim Kardashian are taking to social media to speak out against Brown’s life sentence using #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
Perhaps Cyntoia killed Allen out of fear, because of her mental disorder, or simply because she was wearied of being a sex slave and decided to fight against her oppressors. Despite the reason, Cyntoia Brown should not have been forced to go from one prison to another one. Brown will not be eligible for parole until she is 69 years old. #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
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