Cyntoia Brown-Long Writes Op-Ed Defending Chrystul Kizer
Recently, BOSSIP posted the story of Chrystul Kizer and almost immediately our Twitter mentions were filled with comments about the eerie similarity between her case and that of Cyntoia Brown-Long who was granted clemency from prison just a short time ago.
Chrystul Kizer has also been charged with murder after she allegedly killed the man who was sexually abusing her while also selling her to be abused by other men. The outrage that she would be charged after the court system has already seen a case in this same vein has infuriated those who don’t believe that Chrystul should face a single charge for protecting herself and potentially many others.
Cyntoia has penned an op-ed for the Washington Post that pushes the full weight of her support behind Chrystul.
I take responsibility for the life I took in a moment of fear and desperation. But if my trial had been held today, my defense likely would have included a discussion of domestic-minor sex trafficking and the diminished culpability of girls who are caught up in it. Since 2006, there has been new understanding of the complex trauma that sex trafficking inflicts on its young victims. Children who are bought and sold for sex are not prostitutes, they are trafficking victims. Because of the new awareness brought to my case by advocates, then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) granted me clemency in January, scheduling me for release after 15 years served.
She went on…
I was freed in August, but that can’t be the end of this story. It has always been my hope that my case would show people there is a need to change things for other young women in similar circumstances. A 2016 Vera Institute report showed that 86 percent of all women in jail report having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, 77 percent report partner violence, and 60 percent report caregiver violence. I, too, was assaulted by a man who told me that I needed to prostitute myself to survive. I know my situation was far from unique.
But it is now painfully clear to me that my clemency has not translated into larger-scale change. As I spend my first holiday season at home since my release, many women languish in prison cells as a result of the same laws and practices that affected me.
With those types of statistics, it’s almost a surprise that more women killed more of this ain’t-s#!t-a$$ men. That said women who defend themselves shouldn’t be subjected to criminal charges.
The scholar Cornel West encourages us to “be a voice, not an echo.” To be a voice in the face of injustice requires more than shouting into a bullhorn. It is our responsibility to become stewards of a system that exists to serve, and not to subject. That responsibility involves looking past the emotions, digging into the details and committing ourselves to advocating for change that affects everyone — not just the names we know. And the only way to ensure our voices are not mere echoes on a timeline is to pursue substantive changes to the laws, practices and policies that govern our justice system.
An injustice to one is a threat to us all. #FreeEveryCyntoia
We can only hope that a judge or jury recognizes that Chrystul Kizer is victim and deserves protection.