Almost everyone on Twitter and Facebook has seen the story go viral about Cyntoia Brown, a 29 year old woman serving a life sentence in a Tennesee prison for being the former16 year old sex trafficking victim who fought back in self defense against John Allen, shooting and killing the 43 year old man who used his money and male privilege to buy rape tickets — to buy the “right” to impose unwanted, non-consensual sex (and possible torture and murder) on an abused, neglected, developmentally disabled and terrified underaged girl forced into prostitution by a brutal pimp named “Cut-throat.”
It’s not like Allen didn’t know he was raping a child. Like most ‘tricks’, John Allan was a middle-aged male from the professional middle class who felt entitled to use his money to coerce access to an unwilling and extremely underprivileged underaged person’s body. He knew that what he was doing was wrong. But he didn’t care because society tells men like Allen through systems of privilege every day that they don’t have to care because poor women’s and children’s bodies are accoutrements they’re entitled to.
Every woman is born with a bullseye on her back. And the poorer you are, the less white you are, the bigger that bullseye is. Poor women and girls were always made disposable in this country.
Think about it.
Nobody ever challenges rich men’s sense of entitlement to the bodies of women and children for sex. Nobody ever challenges rich men’s sense of entitlement to all the money and all the good jobs while poor women suffer the brunt of lifelong systemic economic/job discrimination — in a country that never provided enough decent jobs for all, which refuses to provide any real safety net “just for the principle of it”, for those who get pushed out of the economy and left unable to economically provide for themselves.
A society that throws poor adult women away into a permanent sexual and economic underclass — the prostitute class — is the same society that doesn’t bat an eye when poor, unwanted, marginalized kids get trafficked into prostitution. For centuries, society held that that’s all poor marginalized women and children are good for and that the only place we’re allowed to have is the gutter and an early grave. Attempts to fight that injustice have historically been met with accusations of “man-hating” and being a “feminazi.”
And an early grave is exactly what most poor disposable people cast down into the prostitute class get, usually because they’re murdered by upper-middle class men who feel entitled to experience that extra thrill and sense of power — along with the unwanted sex — because they paid for it.
The fear that Cyntoia felt as a trafficked 16 year old when she pulled that trigger was real and justified. Pimps and ‘johns’ have a long, sordid track record of murdering victims of prostitution and getting away with it because the victims are disposable people.
“I picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”~ Gary Leon Ridgeway, The Green River Killer
For as long as I can remember, society never cared when an unnamed prostituted woman or underaged girl was found chopped up and stuffed in a dumpster, written off on police homicide reports as “No Human Involved.”
But when the victims fight back and kill those who are exploiting and abusing them, they’re likely to get slapped with the death penalty — like another underaged trafficking victim, 15 year old Attina Marie Canaday, whose story was memorialized in the 1990 movie “Too Young To Die?” starring Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis.
What happened to Cyntoia Brown is not unusual. It’s very common in the US . It wasn’t that long ago that the very long, protracted legal fight to free Sara Kruzan, a 16 year old trafficking victim who killed her trafficker, finally resulted in Kruzan’s freedom.
What’s NOT common is trafficking victims getting their stories viral and demands for justice being publicly made by A-list celebrities. Most are left to rot in prison after those with the most privileges in society made damn sure the deck was impossibly stacked against them, errecting barrier upon barrier around them, making them disposable — for the “crime” of being born poor, female, and unwanted in a rich man’s world.
I know because I’ve lived it. I escaped my traffickers when I was 17. I am now 50. I know all too well the price that society extracts from poor disposable women and kids when we dare to assert our right to survive and exist as a person with a right to say “NO.” It is only by sheer luck that I did not end up in the same position as Cyntoia Brown, or worse — dead.