Rihanna and Kim Kardashian want justice for jailed former child sex slave Cyntoia Brown

‘She will be eligible for parole when she is 69 years old’


‘She will be eligible for parole when she is 69 years old’

This week you will probably have heard of Cyntoia Brown, a former child sex slave now facing life imprisonment for killing a man who exploited her, with her story all over the internet and the hashtag #freecyntoiabrown trending online. What you didn’t know however, is that you should have heard about her story 13 years ago - when she was sentenced.

Now 13 years into her sentence and facing life behind bars, her story has resurfaced after a social media post calling for her release went viral, shared by A-list celebrities and high profile names from Rihanna and Cara Delevingne to Kim Kardashian West, with #freecyntoiabrown now becoming a strong movement.

A photo posted by on

‘Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked by a pimp named “cut-throat”’, reads the post circulating the internet. ‘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. You’re arrested as a result, tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison.’

The post continues: ‘This is the story of Cyntoia Brown. She will be eligible for parole when she is 69 years old. #FreeCyntoiaBrown’

Filmmaker Daniel Birman made a documentary about the case in 2011, entitled Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story. After sharing a clip from the documentary on a Nashville TV station last week, a movement formed on social media and there is now a clemency petition gaining momentum hoping to get Cyntoia’s case heard by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and a parole board.

Who Is Cyntoia Brown?

Cyntoia Brown, now 29, is a former child sex slave who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who exploited her when she was just 16 years old.

Already a victim to physical, sexual and drug abuse, Cyntoia found herself aged 16 living with a 24-year-old man nicknamed 'Cut Throat' who pimped her out to other men. After getting picked up by a 43-year-old real estate agent named Johnny Allen outside a fast-food restaurant and being taken to his home, Cyntoia reported to Mr Allen making unwanted sexual advances and explained how she shot him when she thought he was reaching for a gun.

After fatally shooting Mr Allen, Cyntoia took both of the guns, some money from his wallet and drove away in his truck.

Cyntoia claimed self-defence but this was rejected by the jury and she was found guilty of first-degree murder as well as prostitution, sentenced to life in prison - eligible for parole when she’s 69-years-old.

Which celebrities are campaigning for Cyntoia Brown?

The free Cyntoia movement has spread particularly far this week with a host of A-list celebrities jumping on board the campaign, taking to their Twitter and Instagram accounts in force to share the message with their millions of followers.

‘Did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE along the way?? Cause…Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life!’ Rihanna wrote on her Instagram account, accompanied by the viral post. ‘To each of you responsible for this child’s sentence I hope to God you don’t have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already! #FREECYNTOIABROWN #HowManyMore.’

Kim Kardashian also took to her Twitter account to share the post and voice her outrage. ‘The system has failed,’ she posted. It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys to see what can be done to fix this. #FreeCyntoiaBrown.'

‘This is a young girl who’s at the tail end of three generations of violence against women,' stated filmmaker Daniel Birman. 'She had no chance.'

How many more women are there like Cyntoia who we haven't even heard of yet?

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.