Article Lead Image

Screenshot via PBS/YouTube

Rihanna, Kim Kardashian call for justice for imprisoned sex trafficking victim

#FreeCyntoiaBrown has a tragic backstory.


Christine Friar


Posted on Nov 22, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 10:21 am CDT

In 2004, Tennessee sex trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to 51 years in prison for the first-degree murder of her abuser. She was 16 years old.

Seven years after her sentencing, filmmaker Dan Birman released a 2011 documentary called Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, which features interviews with Brown. She reportedly explains in the movie that she was being sex-trafficked by a pimp named “Kutthroat,” who had allegedly forced her into prostitution. According to Brown, the shooting of Johnny Allen was an act of self defense after the 43-year-old solicited her services at a fast food restaurant, drove her to his house, and frightened her with his behavior. Brown’s testimony makes the court’s decision to sentence her to any prison time at all seem confusing, at best.

Now, six years after the documentary first aired, Brown’s story has gone viral with a slew of celebrity support. It started with a tweet from Kim Kardashian on Tuesday. She shared an image with the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown, and said she had called her lawyers this week “to see what can be done to fix” Brown’s situation.

Later that same morning, Rihanna wrote in an Instagram post, “Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life!” Rappers T.I. and Rick Ross have both since called for Brown’s release as well.

With millions of followers between the celebrities, it didn’t take long for #FreeCyntoiaBrown to go viral on Twitter and Instagram. A MoveOn petition calling for a presidential pardon of Brown’s case has gotten over 200,000 signatures in 24 hours.

Those interested in learning more about the case can watch the documentary on YouTube.

Share this article
*First Published: Nov 22, 2017, 10:36 am CST