If the name Cyntoia Brown isn't familiar, that could change soon thanks to the advocacy of Rihanna and other celebs. An Instagram post by Rihanna caused the hashtag FREECYNTOIABROWN to go viral Tuesday, reports the Tennessean. The 29-year-old Brown is serving a life sentence in Tennessee for a murder she committed at age 16. She's not eligible for parole until age 69, which advocates call an outrage because they say Brown had been a victim of child sex trafficking when the killing took place. In 2004, a 43-year-old realtor named Johnny Mitchell Allen picked up Brown in his truck and brought her back to his home for paid sex. While there, she fatally shot him in bed, though Brown says she thought Allen had been reaching for a gun.
"Did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE," wrote Rihanna. "Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life! 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!" Fellow celebs including Kim Kardashian West have echoed the message. Brown, who has gotten her associate's degree in prison and is considered a model prisoner, was the subject of a documentary that changed the state's laws on prostitution and sex trafficking, though the changes came too late for her benefit, per Newsweek. Now, a 16-year-old would be considered a victim of sex trafficking, not a prostitute. The film also documented the years of physical and sexual abuse Brown suffered, as a child and teen.