Cyntoia Brown’s Unfair Punishment a Sad Example For Abuse Victims



I was beaten by the hand of a man that promised to honor and cherish me. Which at 22 years old, was the worst experience of my life. Almost every night, I would lay on the bed we shared and pray to God that my life would just end. After each blow, my sense of integrity would decrease. Praying for an escape became a daily ritual.

When I came across the story of Cyntoia Brown on Wednesday, Nov. 22, I became very angry. Brown has been in jail for more than 10 years and is serving a life sentence, with the possibility of parole when she is 69 years old. for murdering a man in Nashville, Tenn., in 2004.

We must begin to question the system when victims, especially under these circumstances, are thrown away for life. It is awful to think that other victims are growing even more fearful to try to escape, just by reading and listening to Brown’s story. A woman should not be fearful of being sent to jail while committing an act of self-defense. When you are trying to break away from an abuser, one of your main concerns is if you will make it out alive. The fear is that if you get caught trying to escape, that will bring on more pain, torture and some type of punishment from your abuser. 

According to CNN, at just 16 years old, Brown was raped and forced into prostitution by a pimp, and ended up killing one of her clients out of self defense. And despite her age, she was tried as an adult and given a life sentence.

Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer got a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus on June 2, 2016.

Six months. Let that settle with you for just a moment. Turner had sexually penetrated an intoxicated and unconscious 22-year-old, and he was only getting six-months in jail simply because of his ethnicity and status within Stanford University. What is even more upsetting is the fact that Turner was released in September after serving only three months in jail.

I can remember being with my ex-husband and praying for any way of escape from him. I would get slapped across my face for not moving fast enough while cleaning the kitchen. If I had a difference of opinion, I had to be prepared to get kicked in my ribs by a man that promised to cherish me. He even pulled a gun on me when I threatened to kill myself. I was unable to handle the abuse anymore.

Brown was exposed to physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse. When you are being abused on any level, your first instinct is to get out however you can to stop the nightmare.

I needed more information. Hearing that a victim like Brown had escaped and is now going to spend her life in jail is appalling. According to CNN, Brown suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, grew up in an abusive home and ran away from her adoptive parents’ house prior to becoming involved in prostitution in Nashville.

“She was staying with different people and using drugs and alcohol,” a 2014 petition for appeal reads. “She then met a 24-year-old named ‘Cut Throat’ who, according to the petition, eventually began physically and sexually abusing her and forced her into prostitution.”

During her trial, the prosecution argued that the motive for the killing was not self-defense, as Brown claimed, but rather robbery, since Brown took Allan’s wallet after she shot him. When trying to escape, your first thought is to take whatever you need to survive on the run. Even if that means the other person’s wallet. How the jury could ignore that fact is ridiculous.

Whenever my ex-husband left the our home in Florida, different scenarios would play in my head on how I was going to escape alive and unharmed. At 16 years old, fear would have overtaken me. And being in the position Brown was in, there is no telling what I would have been capable of while trying to save my life.

Although Brown has been in prison for more than a ten years, her story (as well as the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown) started creating a buzz amongst some very popular, influential A-List celebs.

“Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked by a pimp named cut-throat,” singer Rihanna shared on her Instagram on Nov. 12. “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.”

The same post was later shared by Kim Kardashian and other celebrities, journalists and activists, who (like me) questioned why an underage girl involved in prostitution was given such a harsh sentence.

Although Brown has been in prison for more than a decade, her story (as well as the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown) started creating a buzz, amongst some very popular, influential A-List celebs.

According to CNN, Brown’s life sentence caught criticism in Tennessee. In 2012, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling offered us new hope. The Supreme Court decision banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles, stating it was unconstitutional. However, Brown’s conviction does carry the possibility of parole, but when she is 69 years old.

I hope for change. So that victims everywhere can feel they have people advocating for their safety and have the courage to escape the hands of their abusers. I did. And I am forever grateful for my freedom.