Cyntoia Brown-Long’s story gained national attention this year when she was granted clemency after spending 15 years behind bars for killing a man who hired her for sex when she was only 16-years-old.
In August Brown-Long was finally released from prison, and she recently spoke to CBS News about how it took several years for her to realize that she was a victim of trafficking after realizing how her ‘boyfriend’ took advantage of her vulnerability.
“I was in my late twenties when I actually realized that I was a trafficking victim,” said Brown-Long. “For so long, you know I had thought, ‘No, they said that I was a teenage prostitute. I knew what I was doing.'”
“You know there’s a certain element where you’re just vulnerable because you’re a child your mind is just naturally impressionable in that way,” she said. “But it was like, why was it just so easy for this man to come along and in the space of a few weeks I was doing these things?”
“I thought I was doing something for someone I figure was my boyfriend and that wasn’t necessarily the truth.”
CBS News also reported on her message to her victim’s family:
After Brown-Long was granted clemency, the family of her victim released a statement. It read, in part: “our hearts are broken because we feel Johnny never got to defend himself. We never got to be a voice to him.”
Brown-Long said she understands their pain because “grief doesn’t care about what the situation was.”
“I completely understand how they feel,” Brown-Long said. “This was somebody’s son, it was someone’s brother. If you lose someone, grief doesn’t care about what the situation was.”
“Especially in the justice system, it’s such an adversarial process,” she added. “Many times, both the defendant and the victim’s voices are left out of it. So, I think there are many things that are left unsaid. Many things that people would like to say.”
Brown-Long said she would “absolutely” be willing to sit down with Allen’s family. “If they would ever want to have a conversation then I’m open to that,” she added. “But so far I haven’t received any kind of word that they would be open to that.”
Upon being released in August, Brown-Long married recording artist J. Long. She said she received letters from around the world while she was in prison, but Long’s notes stood out.
“Well aside from the fact that he is very fine,” she said with a laugh. “[His letter] really spoke out to me in a way that I can’t describe.” His letters of support included the hashtag #FreeCyntoia2017 many months before her case gained worldwide attention.
“I really feel like I live with my best friend,” she added.
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