“I remembered that life: the suffocating feeling of being trapped, with no end in sight; wanting the money, needing it, but wishing there were some other legal way to get it. The constant pressure to smile, and pretend you want nothing more than to fulfill every wish and fantasy of a stranger, when all you really want to do is lie around your apartment in sweat pants, watching mafia movies like Goodfellas and Casino – imagining you could live some other life.”
“I remembered, and all I could do was pray: that the women behind those very walls, feeling as I once did, would have a real and true encounter with the loving, gracious, God of freedom and wonder that I have come to know. That they would discover the beauty that lies within them that is more precious than the rarest gem. That they would realize that the dreams of their youth and the passions of their hearts are important, and within reach.”
Scars and Stilettos
– Harmony Dust
In Scars and Stilettos, Harmony Dust recounts her journey from a sexually abused child and stripper to a wife, mother and restored daughter of the King. Dust, 34, founded Treasures Life, a California-based outreach dedicated to bringing women in the sex industry to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It’s the story of a broken road that led her to the ultimate redeeming love she craved but dared not think she deserved.
“The abuse I experienced in my past caused me to feel a deep sense of shame that tore at my self-worth. I believed that there was something inherently wrong with me and I felt unlovable,” Dust said “The dysfunctional relationships I ended up in had to do with choosing people who echoed the horrible things I already believed about myself. I already believed I was unworthy and unlovable, so when someone treated me that way, it wasn’t such a shock. It felt normal and there was a sense of comfort in the familiarity of dysfunction.”
Dancing provided Harmony a facade to be Harmony, the master of her destiny.
“By the time I worked in the strip club, I was already used to being objectified, sexualized and exploited,” she said. “At first, it offered me a false sense of empowerment. But I soon found myself feeling even more powerless and at the mercy of men who objectified me. My livelihood depended on it.”
Jesus began knocking down the barricades of her heart through, Tanya Fairfoot, a Christian classmate in her junior college ballet class. Fairfoot did not preach. She did not judge. She just loved.
Dust said, “Her friendship wasn’t contingent on whether or not I went to church with her or started making choices she ‘approved’ of. She just loved me where I was at and it was through her relationship that I began to experience the unconditional love of God.
Based on that friendship, Dust modeled the Treasures Life approach. The women of Treasures don’t enter strip clubs with a stack of bibles or litter the stage with tracts. They don’t protest in front of clubs promising God’s rain of fire and condemnation.
They come bearing gifts of lip gloss, jewelry and other “fun, girly things” along with a post card with a simple message: “Loved beyond measure, valued far above rubies, purposed for more than you know.”
“Treasures Life is about reaching and restoring women and humanizing the woman on the other side of the dollar. These women are loved, valued and purposed. They are God’s beloved daughters and we are called to care about what He cares about.”
The popular Christian perception is that such adult establishments would resist any evangelical efforts or that dancers would be too hardened by their lifestyle and past abuse to accept an offer of holy redemption. But on the contrary, many of these women deeply yearn for what has eluded them their entire lives.
“This message is so powerful that many women collapse in our arms and weep at hearing it. We believe that true transformation is the result of a heart changed by the love of God,” Dust said.
Treasures Life functions as a swinging gate. It swings open an opportunity for the salvation and transformation to the sexually exploited women on one side. And it swings open the other way for churches and Christians to educate themselves on how to develop a practical and loving approach to reach out to these women. Treasures Life conducts strip club outreach training seminars at its Los Angeles headquarters twice a year.
The hope is to put a face on the harrowing sexual exploitation statistics.
Based on Treasures research:
• Between 66-90 percent of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children.
• Female sex trafficking is the second largest globally-organized crime, generating approximately $12 billion a year.
• 73 percent of women in prostitution have been raped more than five times.
• 89 percent of women in the sex industry said they wanted to escape, but had no other means for survival.
The list goes on and on.
Dust risked profound vulnerability and recounted her own personal story to help women escape the sex industry.
“I believe that story is one of the most powerful and effective tools for doing this,” she said. “If you see the humanity in someone, it becomes difficult to objectify them and sexualize them. It also becomes difficult to judge them. My hope is that readers will see themselves in my story and will be encouraged that there is no place too far from God’s reach.”