Tennessee is recognized for its vigilance in combatting child sex trafficking. But if you ever read the case of Cyntoia Brown, you’d be flabbergasted by such esteem for the state.
WSET reports the Nashville woman was a victim of sex trafficking when she was a teenager.
In 2004, Brown killed Nashville realtor Johnny Allen, one of the many men who paid to have sex with the then 16-year-old. As a child sex slave, she’d been repeatedly raped, abused and held at gunpoint prior to being exploited by Allen. She admitted she feared his military background paired with the numerous guns she said she saw in his home. She shot and killed the 43-year-old.
“He was a sharpshooter in the Army,” Brown said of Allen. “I’m sitting here thinking, ‘If he does something, what am I going to do?”’
Brown, whose grandmother and mother are also survivors of rape, was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 51 years.
Filmmaker Dan Birman followed Brown’s case for seven years in Me Facing Life: Seeking Redemption in Cyntoia’s Story. The documentary on the young woman, which premiered on PBS in March 2011, was partly responsible for igniting the change in the way the state handles sex trafficking cases. Now, anyone under 18 years old can no longer be charged with prostitution in the southern state.
“We started the conversation,” Birman said. “This is a young girl who’s at the tail end of three generations of violence against women.”
While in prison, Brown attained her associate’s degree from Lipscomb University and is now working toward her bachelor’s. She also works as a volunteer consultant with the Juvenile Justice System.
A petition has been created for Brown via MoveOn Petitions. Once it receives enough signatures, it will be delivered to Congress in the hopes she will be pardoned.