Who is Cyntoia Brown? 'Sex Trafficking Victim' Gets Support From Celebs on Instagram

Celebrities have come in force to support sex trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown. In 2004, Brown was sentenced to life in prison when she was 16 years old for killing the man who paid her for sex. 

A photo that carried a caption loosely detailing Brown’s controversial trial surfaced online on Monday and went viral. It was shared by stars like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, T.I and several others.

The image originated from filmmaker Daniel Birman’s 2011 documentary following the Tennessee-native’s case. The film gave insight on the physical, sexual and verbal abuse Brown suffered as a child before she was solicited for sex by 43-year-old realtor Johnny Mitchell Allen. Brown shot and killed Allen after being taken to his home.

Speaking with Tennessee’s Fox17 Nashville on Thursday, Birman explained Brown came from a family with a long history of sexual and physical abuse toward women.

“We started the conversation [with Brown being] a young girl who’s at the tail end of three generations of violence against women,” he said. “She had no chance.”

During Brown’s trial in 2004, she testified that being beaten, choked, dragged and raped was a regular occurrence in her household. She was often threatened at gunpoint. Her legal team argued the trauma of her childhood is essentially what led her shoot Allen after engaging in intercourse with him, which he paid for.

Even though Brown was legally a child when Allen paid her for sex, she was given a life sentence on murder and prostitution charges. She is eligible for parole after serving 51 years behind bars.

Birman’s documentary helped change sex trafficking and prostitution laws in Tennessee. Now only adults 18 years and older can be charged for prostitution. Children are deemed victims of sex trafficking in the state. But the new law didn't pertain to Brown.

Brown, now 29, has already spent nearly 13 years in prison. She completed her associate's degree behind bars and is reportedly working on her bachelors. She also serves as an unpaid consultant at the Juvenile Justice system. 

A number of Tennessee residents rallied for Brown’s freedom, launching a clemency petition. So far, it has received more than 100,000 signatures.

Celebrities in the hip-hop community took to Instagram and Twitter to advocate against the unfair sentencing of people of color. In early November, a number of music industry elites launched a rally to fight the “unfair and unjust” sentencing of rapper Meek Mill, who was ordered to serve a 2 to 4-year prison sentence for violating his parole.

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