Cyntoia Brown has had a terrible life. After growing up in an abusive home and running away from her adoptive parents, she ended up in Nashville, TN. She moved around a lot, becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, before meeting a pimp named “Cut Throat” in Nashville while she was still a teenager. Cut Throat began physically and sexually abusing Cyntoia and forced her into a life of prostitution. At the age of 16, she was solicited for sex by a 43-year old man named Johnny Mitchell Allan, who drove her back to his house. While at his house, she testified that she resisted his advances and eventually shot him. Unfortunately for her, the government tried her as an adult and she was convicted of first degree murder, first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery (for taking Allan’s wallet) in 2004. She was sentenced to concurrent life sentences plus an additional 8 years in prison. She is eligible for parole at the age of 69.
Cyntoia’s story has made national headlines recently as the more attention is focused on whether child prostitutes are only victims or whether they can be criminals as well? California has taken the stance that child prostitutes are victims and has passed recent legislation reflecting that attitude. As of January 1, 2017, minors who engage in prostitution cannot be charged with prostitution, under the theory that a victim should not be further victimized by the law. However, some people believe that such legislation may actually harm children more than help them. If a pimp knows a child prostitute cannot be prosecuted, then a pimp may be more likely to use children. For an article reflecting this alternate viewpoint, click here.
However, I believe that pimps aren’t calculating what laws are helpful and what punishments are hurtful before deciding who to victimize. The goal is for society to help children who are victims of forced prostitution and sex trafficking and for the courts to recognize that these individuals need the broadest forms of protection. I do not know what the right result should be in Cyntoia Brown’s case but it will be a tragedy regardless of the outcome.
To learn more about Cyntoia’s story, click here.