By Lauren Lankford:

Last night I went to a sex trafficking awareness event.

Black and white photographs - mug shots - of broken, bruised women arrested and brought in for prostitution flashed across the screen, over and over and over. Horrifically broken women. Women who, like horses, have had their spirits broken in order to serve another man's purpose and desire.

I listened to a 30 second clip of a young woman pleading and sobbing with a judge for mercy in his ruling on her 31 solicitation charges: "This isn't me. I'm not this woman. I don't want to be this. I don't want to do this anymore. This isn't me. Please, please help me. Please."

Don't punish me for what I did, because this isn't the woman I wanted to be.

But I feel like I have no other option.

I beg of you to be the man who stands in my defense.

Sitting on that cold, wooden bench, watching this girl beg for someone to understand that Prostitute wasn't her name, I was shocked to find that the ache swelling in my heart was an ache I'd felt before. The same pain I've felt many times. An ache I could see written on the faces of every single girl and woman in that room.

Why could every woman identify with the sobbing prostitute in the court room?

I have begged for someone to see me as the woman I want to be; not as the woman I've fallen into being.

I have been the woman condemned by the sex I've allowed, agreed to, and willingly sought out - but later, desperately cried out for someone, anyone who will understand that this isn't the woman I want to be. This isn't me.

But a small part of me feels like I had no other option. It was out of my control. I said yes, but did I really mean it? Desperately wanting a man to stand in my defense. To fight for me, before he wants sex.

"I used to think prostitutes were the criminals. Not the victims. Everyone has a choice, right? She had the option of not agreeing to sex. But look at these women's faces. When you judge thousands of domestic violence cases, you learn what victims look like and what they don't. And every single woman brought in on a solicitation charge looks like a victim. I started studying statistics on women charged with selling their bodies. Every single woman has been the victim of another crime: domestic violence, abuse, incest, molestation, abandonment. But we prosecute them as the criminal."

So this judge made the decision to start viewing prostitutes not as criminals, but as victims. A second chance.

Sex taken from them. Not given. Even though they said yes. Even though they received something in return.

Every time I had sex I said yes to it. But I have always felt like something was taken from me. Even though every single time I thought I got what I wanted or needed that night.

Do you have a choice? And is that really the question? Is it really the word Yes or No that matters?

Did those women have the choice to say no to giving up their bodies in return for something else they desperately needed to make it through the day?

Do you? Do I? Out of the overflow of the heart, so the mouth speaks.

The ugly truth of prostitution is that those women don't really have a choice. The majority of them have been trafficked, and if you're familiar with trafficking, you know that it is kidnapping and slavery in it's most brutal, gruesome, despicable, evil form.

The ugly truth of prostitution is that those women exchanged sex for what they needed to get through that day alive, according to their past, their perspective, and the men who shaped their lives.

And the ugly truth of my sex life is that in the past, I have given every inch of my body in exchange for what I needed to get through that day alive, according to my past, my perspective, and the men who shaped my life and my culture.

That is why every woman in the room could relate to the desperation, pain, judgement, guilt, brokenness, and plea for mercy expressed by the prostitute.

Because I believe that as a woman who has had sex with men who did not commit their life and love to me, I am as that of a prostitute.

As are you, if you have also slept with a man before he married you.

I am not judging you. I am fighting heart and soul in your defense.

Because I know that you feel like you were the victim of another crime. A father who left. A man who broke your spirit. An emptiness that never ceases. Pain inflicted on you by another. A culture that tells you sex is all you're worth. Men who have degraded, devalued and destroyed women through pornography. A society that has lied to you about sex since the day you were born. The victim of men who refused to fight in your behalf; men who refused to fight for you. All of you.

Because I know that when you said yes, you thought he would stay. Because I know that when you said yes, you knew he wouldn't.

Because I know that you were in search of something other than sex, just as I was.

The truth is that when we want sex, we want passionate intimacy. We want a man to want us. We want him to actively, physically demonstrate his intense desire for us - over everything else he could be doing at this very moment.

We want closeness. We want to feel needed, wanted; to feel like we both fully satisfy and are satisfied by another.

I'm not eliminating our desire for physical pleasure, or to put it bluntly, saying that "women just want to be wanted, we don't care about getting off."

No. What I'm pointing out is that when we crave sex, we are craving things that can't be delivered by getting ourselves off. Otherwise we would be forever content with that.

And this is how we identify how powerful sex is.

I am not jaded when it comes to sex. I am not pandering abstinence because traditional Christianity labels all self-indulgence as "sin."

I want it. I enjoy it. It frustrates me when I cannot have it. But I have learned that "sex will satisfy me" is a lie, and comes at great cost.

Beloved woman, would you still be turned on if the man in your bed said:

"You're sexy, but I might decide another woman is sexier later."

"You are beautiful, but not enough to make me yours forever."

"I love you, but I can't promise I'll protect you, in fact - I'll probably hurt you instead."

"I love getting you off, but if you get pregnant, I might not be the dad."

"I love your body, but only because you're hot. And I'm watching porn when I'm not with you."

"I want you more than anything, but just tonight. It will be different next week."

"I came over because you're easy sex and I don't have to really love you to get anything."

"I want your beauty and your warmth and your body, but nothing else." Whether or not the man you are sleeping with is saying these things out loud, these statements are being branded into your mind, body & heart every single time you have sex outside of marriage.

Because they are all true, when sex is had without a diamond on your finger. There is no guarantee that a man is staying, that he loves you and is committed to you - and so these statements are inherently true. And there is nothing that the best intentions can do to alter their truth.

Even if you are content with going through with sex, and sacrificing what you know you want or deserve in order for temporary companionship, comfort, "love," or physical pleasure, you WILL start to believe certain things about yourself, other men, and other women.

You will start to believe that you are no better. That men are no better.

It will alter your view of sex, love, relationships, and men. But most importantly, it will alter your view of yourself.

It will name you Prostitute when your precious, broken heart begs a man to see you as the woman you always wanted to be.

We are a generation of women who have been convinced by the men in our lives that sex is what we have to give in order to attain what we need to get through life.

I crave Something, and men have convinced me that sex will fill it.

Be honest with me. When you tell yourself that you want sex, did you come to this conclusion by yourself? Or is it the product of the men in your life and the culture you live in? I challenge you to sit down and wrestle through this.

Are you the criminal, or are you the victim of a broken world, in dire need of Love in it's true form?

Women, we have sold ourselves.

And it is breaking us.

The human body is not built to withstand regrettable sex. We are not built to give everything before he has stepped up and committed to give us everything back. This is why you feel like something has been taken, even though you said yes.

Women, you are not built to have sex with a man who has not committed his heart, mind and body to you for the rest of your life.

I beg of you to join me in saying No.

Saying No to the lie that sex alone will satisfy what you crave.

Saying No to men until one of them loves you enough to promise to give, not to take. For the rest of his life.

I beg of you to sit at the foot of Jesus with me as Prostitute. As he gives us new names, and fights in our behalf.