Cyntoia Brown is a victim of sex trafficking who has been serving a life sentence in Tennessee for the last 13 years after killing her abuser, Johnny Mitchell Allen.

Her birth mother was 16 years old when she gave birth to Brown and testified that she drank a fifth of whisky every day while she was pregnant and had also previously been in jail. Her lawyers also provided the court with medical scans reported to show signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, symptoms of which include "delayed development and problems in thinking, speech, movement, and social skills," as well as "poor judgment" and difficulty with impulse control.

Richard Adler, a clinical and forensic psychiatrist said although Brown has a high IQ, testing showed her to be functioning at the level of a 13 or 14-year-old.

Cyntoia was adopted by a family in Clarksville, Tennessee and was on the gifted programme at her school while in the seventh grade but after the year 2000 when she was picked up for theft, she was placed in the district's alternative school for at-risk children. While receiving a psychological evaluation there, she was put on medication immediately, most likely Chlorpromazine - a medication used to treat certain mental/mood disorders severe in children.

However after she assaulted at least one teacher and multiple students, she was put on a cocktail of psychotropic drugs for depression and anxiety, and she was entered into alcohol and drug treatment.

Her counsellor at the time noted that she had little self-worth and expected others to fail or betray her making her unable to trust others yet she "badly desired approval."

Brown, who is now 29, fell into trafficking when she ran away from her adoptive family, dropped out of school and ended up in Nashville. By the age of 16, she began living with a 24-year-old man called 'Kutthroat', staying at different motels around town and snorting cocaine.

He sex trafficked her so they both had money to live on and also abused her physically and sexually. He once choked her until she passed out and at other times had pulled a gun on her.

Why did she kill Johnny Mitchell Allen?

One night in August 2004 after she had been hit by Kutthroat, she was picked up by Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent, outside of a Nashville fast-food restaurant.

He asked her if she was OK, but after listening to her story, asked if she was "up for any action," Brown said.

He drove her back to his house where his strange behaviour frightened her and made her want to escape.

They ate dinner together, watched some TV and when in an effort to sneak away, she said she wanted to nap. He lay down with her but didn't fall asleep. He kept getting up and standing over her, she said. She became more panicked, convinced something was going to happen to her, noting that he had told her that he was a sharpshooter in the Army.

"He grabbed me in-between my legs — he just grabbed it real hard,' she told the trial court. 'I'm thinking he's going to hit me or do something like it...' Then Allen turned over and reached to the side of the bed."

Cyntoia said she panicked, thinking he was reaching for a gun.

Convinced she was about to die, she said, she shot him in the head with a 40-calibre handgun that Kutthroat had given her for "protection".

She then took two of Allen's guns, some money out of his wallet and drove his truck to a Walmart parking lot.

What happened in court?

Despite being a child and a victim of sex trafficking, Brown was tried as an adult and found guilty of both first-degree murder and prostitution.

Her legal team argued the trauma of her childhood is essentially what led her shoot Allen after engaging in intercourse with him, which he paid for.

However, it is to be noted that Brown did lie about her age to Allen when they first encountered each other and she is known to have contradicted some of her initial story by saying while he slept, she left the room, found his gun collection, returned to the bedroom and shot him while he slept leading prosecutors to raise the point that Brown premeditated the murder.

Because the victim was asleep, she had an opportunity to leave and chose not to.

With a sentence of 60 years to life in prison in Tennessee, Brown is not eligible for parole until she has served a minimum of 51 years, which means she will reach the age of 69 before her chances of release are even considered.

Although under Tennessee law, she would now be treated as a victim first and foremost after 2012, when a US Supreme Court decision banned life without parole for juveniles, stating it was unconstitutional - a ruling which her advocates are relying on to free her.

A habeas corpus petition is pending in the Court of Appeals, but her lawyers have been unsuccessful so far.

“We’re hopeful that either the court or the legislature or ultimately the governor will consider her case favorably and shorten her sentence as much as possible,” attorney Charles Bone who took up the case pro-bono after becoming interested in it after viewing the PBS documentary based on the case entitled "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," since the case had attracted some attention in her native Nashville:

Why is there suddenly so much celebrity interest?

However, despite any massive change in the case, it has only now picked up the attention which it initially should have received in the beginning with a post by pop singer Rihanna on Instagram:

The same post was later shared by Kim Kardashian West, LeBron James Cara Delevigne, and other celebrities, journalists and activists, who questioned why an underage girl involved in prostitution was given such a harsh sentence.

Rapper Snoop Dogg also posted on Instagram comparing the case to that of Brock Turner:

Since becoming aware of the story Kim Kardashian West has enlisted a lawyer for Cyntoia while also asking her lawyer to help in the case of Alice Johnson, a former Fed-Ex worker who helped transfer messages between members of a cocaine ring in the 1990s. Johnson has served 21 years of a life sentence and is now a 62-year-old grandmother.

The lawyer, Shawn Holley was on a team of lawyers who defended OJ Simpson, who was found not guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Kim asked me several weeks ago how she could help Alice Johnson in her fight for justice. We then began corresponding with Alice and her team of lawyers,” Shawn Holley said.

“Since then, Kardashian West has championed the cause of Cyntoia Brown and asked me to help her get involved in that effort as well.”

In a Twitter post that has been re-tweeted over 220,000 times, Kardashian West confirmed this:

"Cyntoia is shocked and surprised that so many celebrities have all of a sudden decided that they needed to speak out on this and she is very appreciative of their interest and their concern and their support," said Bone, the lawyer currently handling the case on a pro-bono basis.

While in prison, Brown has completed her G.E.D., gotten an associate degree from Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville that teaches classes at the prison and is hoping to earn a bachelor of arts degree by next year. She also mentors other female prisoners and has been described as a model inmate.

Why do we only care now?

Despite the sentence being imposed 13 years ago, Cyntoia Brown has only now received the attention that she deserves. We must question ourselves as a society as to why we've only decided to care about this tragic case of American injustice now.

Although the PBS documentary about the case had been watched by thousands, the case only came to the limelight after Rihanna posted about it and led to the #FreeCyntoiaBrown movement which was picked up by dozens of other well-known figures.

Only after this show of support, was it suddenly okay to vocally oppose the American justice system and thousands expressed their concern for Brown.

Sadly, there are countless similar cases which can be found throughout North America, including that of Alice Johnson, which for the most part don't receive this level of scrutiny across social media, particularly ones which involve People of Colour.

It's our role as people of the world to keep ourselves up to date with such miscarriages of justice and try and do something about it. How many other cases will be ignored until a celebrity posts about it?