Cyntoia Brown-Long hopes that sharing her story can prevent what happened to her from happening to other young women.
In her first television interview since she was released from prison, Brown-Long told “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt that despite the hardships she’s endured, she feels like she’s been given a “great opportunity.”
“It’s an honor that God has put me in this position. I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Brown-Long said.
“I fully intend to step into that and to share my experiences as often as I can, with whoever I can, in the hopes that it can bring about more understanding about what goes on in the system with young girls who find themselves in the situation that I did.”
“There’s nothing special about me. There’s, I can’t tell you how many Cyntoia Browns are still in prison,” she said. “The women who helped me get to this point, they’re still in prison for 51 years and up with ridiculous sentences. And they don’t have hope right now.”
Brown-Long, 31, spent 15 years in prison after she was convicted of first-degree murder of Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent, in 2004.
At the time, she was just 16 years old and a victim of sex-trafficking. She said her pimp raped her and forced her into prostitution, repeatedly raped by different men for weeks. At the time, she said she did not see herself as a trafficking victim.
“You meet these young girls who are in these situations. And they don’t view themselves as being pimped. They don’t view their trafficker as their trafficker. They think, ‘This is my boyfriend.’ And that’s exactly what I thought with Kut. I thought, ‘This is my boyfriend. I’m in a relationship. I’m his Bonnie, he’s my Clyde,’” Brown-Long said.
In August of 2004, Brown-Long went home with Johnny Allen, a decision that would leave him dead and her facing a murder charge.
According to court documents, Brown-Long said Allen allegedly picked her up for sex, first stopping for food, and then drove her to his home. She said, while in bed together, she thought Allen reached for what she believed was a gun and shot him with her handgun, which she claimed was in self-defense.
Allen’s family said he was trying to help her that night. Cyntoia admitted to NBC News that it could have been any other man that night.
“I think back on the past few weeks, the previous weeks. And always feeling like, you know, violence was around the corner. Always feeling like I had to defend myself,” Brown-Long said. “Expecting, you know, for men to be violent towards me. And, you know, there’s times I wonder, like, was I really, like, in real life in danger? Or was that just in my head?”
In 2006, she was tried as an adult, convicted at 16-years-old of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. She was sentenced to life. She would have had to serve 51 years, or until 2055, before she would be eligible for parole.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Michelle Cho and Kim Cornett