If you have been watching the news over the past year, the name Cyntoia Brown may sound familiar. Her story has been both controversial and heartbreaking to those watching it unfold. Her story as we know it, panned back to 2004 where Browns life changed forever. Her unfortunate life circumstances landed her in the middle of a sex trafficking operation at the age of 16. Her interaction with 43-year-old Johnny Allen, who solicited her for sex, ended in his murder at the hands of Cyntoia. Court documents indicated that she thought he was reaching for his gun to kill her, so she retaliated quickly as to avoid her own demise. The aftermath resulted in sentencing of life, with many people refuting this claim and siding with Brown saying that she was acting in self-defense. The judge had no sympathy for her and carried out his ruling in 2006, two years after the fatal altercation.
After 5 years of being in prison, Cyntoia participated in a documentary that aired on PBS entitled, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story”. Some unlikely stars were watching the documentary and made it a point to stand behind the now 23 year old. Kim Kardashian was among those watching and who would later play a role in Brown’s release. At the time, “Tennessee’s Supreme Court ruled that Brown must remain in prison for at least 51 years before she was eligible for release” (HuffingtonPost). A sentence that obviously meant most of her life would take place behind concrete and steel bars. Her story resonated with women, both young and old, who felt for her situation and understood the severity of a woman being put in an abusive situation. It is hard to find a woman today who hasn’t been harassed by a man in some way, whether is be catcalling, groping and even rape. If the Me Too Movement is any indication, it’s a problem that has been swept under the rug for far too long and we, as a society, have to address its roots.
Cyntoia’s lawyer would later file a lawsuit arguing that “mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional” (HuffingtonPost). To the surprise of many, the courts rejected this and it ignited a firestorm of media outrage and was a trending topic among the Women’s March, which took place on January 19 of last year. The case immediately took center stage and was fuel to the already enormous fire that was fighting against the Trump administrations fear baiting tactics and sexual assault cases. As the story snowballed, a petition was eventually started to promote a retrial and release of Brown. Celebrities and those active social media was too much pressure on the system as things took a turn for the better in her case. On January 7, 2019, Cyntoia was granted clemency by Govenor Bill Haslam of Tennessee and will be released in August 2019. “Under the conditions of her release, Brown will be required to undergo regular counseling, work at least 50 hours of community service, and get a job” (HuffingtonPost). She was able to get her Associates degree in prison, as well as, being granted an opportunity to mentor other inmates. This life’s lesson is sure to propel Cyntoia in the direction of mentoring others outside of prison once she is released. The conditions of her parole, which will last for ten years after she is released, has come under some criticism but her release in itself is a major win, granting a second chance to someone who will definitely take advantage of it.
Cyntoia’s story, unfortunately, isn’t an anomaly. Too many girls have been subjected to sex trafficking and rape but it is always great to see the light at the end of the tunnel manifest, giving hope to those who are going down that path.