Cyntoia Brown-Long talked about her childhood, life in prison and her road to redemption at New Direction Christian Church.
"Pretty much everything I did, I was trying to be accepted," she said. "I was trying to feel like I belonged.”
Many of us have probably seen the story in the headlines: a 16-year-old runaway sentenced to life in prison for killing a man she says bought her for sex. Fifteen years later and free from prison, Brown-long says she has a message to share — a message that everyone deserves a second chance.
In a room filled with dozens of people at the church, she talked about being released from prison for killing a man she says bought her for sex in 2004.
The act got her life with the possibility of parole after 51 years. She was only 16. Now at the age of 31 free and married, she shares her story in her new book "Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System."
“To hear a young lady that’s been caught up in sex trafficking, faced 51 years in prison, and was released this year, she came out like a woman on fire,” said Stacy Spencer, senior pastor of New Direction Christian Church.
Spencer talked to Brown-Long about her childhood and how that affected the choices she made. Those choices that led her into the world of prostitution and sex trafficking.
"I was out there, and I didn’t even think that I was having sex for money. No, you're not," Brown-Long said. "I’m just playing my part. I’m his girlfriend.”
She said that while in prison she never once accepted that she would be locked away for the rest of her life.
“Even in the midst of hopelessness, she held on to hope," Spencer said. "To be able to come out determined to make sure that other young ladies won’t have to do or experience the same thing she has.”
Brown-Long said she will continue to fight for women suffering from abuse and sexual exploitation.
“We are all capable of seconds chances, third chances, fourth chances. We’re all capable of change.”