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EDITORIAL: Cyntoia Brown should be praised, not incarcerated



Cyntoia Brown

Cyntoia Brown is a 29-year-old woman who 13 years ago was sentenced to life for murdering the man who abducted her and trafficked her for involuntary sex work. She is currently serving her sentence in Tennessee, but thanks to social media, the case has regained national attention. 

Many celebrities as well as the general public are rallying behind Brown and saying her sentence is too severe given her circumstances and age. Editorial Board agrees. 

When the system already fails so many who report rape and sexual abuse, it is no surprise that a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking was sentenced to such a harsh punishment for escaping her horrific situation.

Lawyers for Brown said if she were tried under current Tennessee law, she would receive a charge of second degree murder at most.

Thirteen years of Brown’s life have been spent in prison. Her adolescent years were first robbed by a pimp and second by the system that was supposed to protect her. 

At 16, Brown began living with a 43-year-old named Johnny Mitchell Allen, who goes by the alias “Kut-throat.” Kut-throat let several men drug and rape her, and then he eventually sold her to a child predator for sex. 

Brown said that one night the two got into bed together, and she saw Allen reach under the bed. Fearing that he was reaching for a gun, she also grabbed a gun and proceeded to shoot him.

Cyntoia Brown, after living in fear with continued abuse, finally protected herself – and is now being punished to the highest degree for it. 

Not only does the criminal justice system treat victims of sex crimes unjustly, it allows perpetrators to get off easy.

Two years ago Brock Allen Turner was tried and convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault. After the trial, he was charged with assault with attempt to rape, rape of an intoxicated person with a foreign object and rape of an unconscious person with a foreign object. 

Two strangers passing by a college party witnessed Turner on top of a woman behind a dumpster. The two called the police and pulled Turner off of the woman and held him until authorities arrived. 

Although Turner's charges typically carry at least a 14 year prison sentence, prosecutors only asked for a six year moderate sentence in county jail. Turner actually received a six month sentence in county jail followed by three months of probation. But Turner only served three months in jail before being released. 

Turner forced himself upon an intoxicated, unconscious woman behind a dumpster and has a lighter sentence than a survivor of sexual abuse and trafficking. 

In the midst of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the Woody Allen allegations and the Louis C.K. admittance of sexual misconduct, it is no secret that society, including our government officials, does not take sexual assault seriously.

Thirteen women have come forward intending to press charges against our own president, on top of many video and audio accounts of him discussing his abusive behavior toward women. 

CNN published an incomplete list of powerful men who have been accused of sexual assault – all of them still walking free with their money, their fame and negligable consequences for their actions. 

Meanwhile a 29-year old is serving a life sentence for killing her rapist, her pimp, her abuser. 

Our prison system is failing those it was supposed to protect. While it would be hard to escape a sentence at all for murder, Brown, a minor at the time, should never have been sentenced to a life behind bars.

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