December 6, 2017
HOW CHANGING VIEWS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AFFECT TRAFFICKING VICTIMS LIKE CYNTOIA BROWN
Have you seen the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown lately on your social media feeds? It’s a growing campaign to grant parole and freedom to Cyntoia Brown, a 29-year-old woman who has served 13 years in prison for killing the man who sex-trafficked her. In 2004, when she was only 16, Brown was convicted of prostitution and murder, and given a life sentence without eligibility for parole until 2059.
Celebrities such as Rihanna and LeBron James have taken to social media to speak outagainst the verdict and call for legal action: “Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked by a pimp named ‘cut throat.’ After days of being repeatedly drugged and raped by different men you were purchased by a 43 year old child predator who took you to his home to use you for sex. You end up finding enough courage to fight back and shoot and kill him. You’re arrested as a result tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. This is the story of Cyntoia Brown. She will be eligible for parole when she is 69 years old. #FreeCyntoiaBrown”
This is the text that appeared on the image Rihanna shared on Instagram, alongside her exclamation: “Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life!” Champion basketball player LeBron James chimed in with outrage as well: “Guess she didn’t have the RIGHT to finally defend herself huh?!? … Cyntoia should be getting a award, medal of courage of sort instead of being locked up.” Reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, model and actor Cara Delevingne, and rap singer Snoop Dogg have used their social-media platforms to bring attention to the cause as well.
Brown’s case certainly does seem like an unfair sentence. But the way her jury and judge viewed it in 2004 was the way many trafficked minors’ cases have been until now—treating the minor not as a victim but as a criminal. I think this is because our culture is finally starting to see sexual crimes against women for what they are, and we’re less compelled by narratives that would blame women for attracting men. Continue reading at The Federalist.
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