[TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE OF A MINOR, HUMAN TRAFFICKING, GUN VIOLENCE, DEATH, CHILD ABUSE]
Cyntoia Brown, the woman who killed a man in self-defense while being trafficked by her abusive boyfriend at age 16 and was sentenced to at least 51 years in prison, has finally been granted clemency after serving 15 years in prison for killing a man who was going to rape her.
I am immensely relieved. After the news broke that the governor of Tennessee granted clemency to a bunch of people but not Ms. Brown, I had almost lost hope that she would be given any shred of justice. This is still far from what she deserves. She should be compensated by the government for being imprisoned for 15 years - nearly half of her young life. It's going to be so hard for her to acclimate back into society after all she's experienced. Prison is traumatic enough on its own. Also, for some reason, she won't actually be released until August 7 of this year.
It will be up to activist communities to help her, because the state won't. I'm sure there will be a fundraiser to help secure housing and fund her education, which she is already working on in prison.
We should also remember and celebrate the fact that it was our raised voices that finally got Ms. Brown clemency. Gov. Bill Haslam only looked into her case because so many people called and emailed his office demanding it. It's just tragic that this case took 15 years to reach public attention.
What we can do now is look for similar cases and demand justice for women in the same kind of situation. The U.S. has a long history of punishing women of color for killing the men who abuse them. There are more women and girls out there just like Ms. Brown who also need our help. Celebrate now, then keep up the good work.
All the best, Cyntoia Brown. I hope you can have the best life possible after all you've been through.