Ashley Dupré, the former escort involved in the scandal surrounding New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, says that she's made many mistakes, and that many other young women could have ended up in a similar situation.
"You don't mean to make those choices, but you're put in a situation and, you know, you have an opportunity to do it," she told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in an interview airing tonight on "20/20."
Dupré's father left when she was small, and her mother remarried an oral surgeon. When she was 12, her 17-year-old brother ran away and got arrested for dealing drugs.
Dupré said she felt lost at that point, and that, as a teenager, she was confused about her relationship with men.
"I think by not having my father and my brother around, I really ... I felt like I missed something," she said. "To have a certain level of respect for yourself, how to carry yourself. Have that father that, you know, if I'm dating a guy and he can't stand him, you know, stick up for me and say, 'What are you doing?' The unconditional love feeling ... I just couldn't find it.
"I didn't have that emotional connection," she continued. "I think I was confused. I didn't know what sex was."
But Dupré doesn't blame her father or brother for the mistakes she acknowledges making.
"I've made so many mistakes," she said. "It's trial and error. I feel like I've raised myself. I left home at 17, you know."
Dupré left her home in New Jersey and went to live with her biological father, but she said she couldn't adjust to the new school, and dropped out junior year.
"I called my dad, I said, 'I can't do this. I'm dropping out,'" she said. "And he said, 'Well, don't come home.'"
Dupré wanted to prove she could make it on her own.
Dupré said she started by sleeping on the couches of friends and also wandered into a drunken topless shoot that surfaced on "Girls Gone Wild." She worked as a cocktail waitress at a strip club, and said she "got involved with the wrong crowd" and with drugs, using "cocaine, ecstasy, pot and vodka [and] alcohol" on a regular basis.
At 19, Dupré moved to New York, hoping for a new life.
"I was working three jobs," she said. "I never had my house. ... I wanted my home to be my home, because I never had a home."
While Dupré worked as a cocktail waitress, a customer gave her a business card for an escort service. She saved the card but said the prospect of working as an escort "wasn't about the money. It was really a place that I could emotionally disconnect myself, rather than be in a relationship and get hurt and be vulnerable."
A few weeks later, she said she called the company and started working that night.
"I knew the line of business," she said. "I already had it in my mind what it was, and I made that decision. ... I knew exactly what I was walking into. ... I was so naive then. I think I was 19, and I was so careless."
Dupré said she never did the work steadily, and that no one knew what she was doing. She'd make cash for three months at a time, then take six months off, going to work at a real estate agency or waitressing, only to go back to escort again.
Dupré uses the word escort to describe the business, which, for her, carries a different meaning than "prostitute."
"I think that prostitution is only about sex," she said. "Whereas an escort is more -- It's time spent ... And, you know, most of the time you go in and you're just someone to talk to."
When it comes to the sex, she said, "You had to be emotionally disconnected -- like from your heart to your head."
Last December, after being left by a boyfriend, she said she felt she had one choice: to start working as an escort again, in a kind of depression and defeat.
Dupré wrote in her journal, "Today was my first night back at the agency. It was really difficult for me. I don't remember it being this hard. It used to be easy for me. I never really thought about what it was I was doing."
That's how she came to be the girl at the escort service when a powerful but anonymous client called in. It was four weeks after she returned to work when she traveled to Washington.
Court documents show that Dupré and Spitzer may have had previous encounters. That final night, Spitzer spent three hours with her at $1,000 an hour. He gave her $4,300. Apparently, the excess was credit for future appointments. In the end, it would be the money trail that brought him down.
Dupré said she has nothing to say to the former governor, but if she had the chance, she would tell his wife Silda Spitzer that "I'm sorry for your pain."
Since news of the scandal broke, she's reportedly turned down offers for book deals, a reality TV show and $1 million to pose in Hustler magazine, and maintains surprisingly normal hopes and dreams for her future.
"I don't know about the white picket fence," Dupré said.
"I want someone that will love me," she said, "someone that will think that all my imperfections make me perfect -- someone, when I fall, they'll be right there, telling me to get back up, it's going to be OK. I want a best friend."