From as far back as I can remember, back to age seven, one man conducted himself in an inappropriate way towards me. He treated me much like a man would treat a girlfriend; buying me jewelry, taking me out to eat, and eventually watching me bathe—and physical contact that should only be shared between an adult romantic couple, or a husband and a wife. My father was a drug user and dealer at the time and likely unaware of the abuse. My mother eventually figured it out and prevented it from continuing.
My mother started to take us to church at this point. It was a wonderful experience for me. I had not really been given the opportunity to hear much about God or study the Bible before then. Then, at age ten, a leader in the church, who was about five years older than I, convinced me to participate in sexual acts with him during a ‘game.’ Luckily, we soon left that church.
Until I was about twelve I had no real understanding or opinion about what had happened to me. It wasn’t until I heard people speak about abuse victims that I realized that’s what I was. Then, I felt only shame and would not speak about my abuse for 20 years. I covered myself in a false pride throughout much of my life, constantly trying to prove through accomplishments that I was someone to be proud of.
Around age fourteen, I definitely pursued attention from sexual interaction. It seemed to be built into me that my purpose was to please men. This message had been sent to me through these sexual acts as a child, and it would take many years to realize there was any other purpose for me in relationship to men.
When I was around seven, my father had gotten saved. While he put away the drugs and dangerous lifestyle, our home life became very strict and controlled. I simply wasn’t able to learn much-needed social skills. By age fourteen I was pretty, smart, and accomplished in school. There was plenty of interest towards me from young men. I was easily duped into following them to parties or other places. It was at that age that I was date raped for the first time. I said something provocative to my ‘boyfriend,’ and he interpreted that as an invitation to sex. I had no real understanding of what was happening. I did not have the ability to say “No.” I had become accustomed to having my decisions made for me. It didn’t occur to me that my opinion was wanted or needed in any situation with a man.
This happened a second time at a party, and after that I stopped seeing the young man. Other people were there, and I felt endangered by their knowledge of what was happening to me. The only thing that ever seemed to affect my ability to stand up for myself was public shame.
When my parents divorced at age fifteen, I went to live with my mother in an apartment. She had to work to support my sister and myself. Unfortunately the next guy I met was a very troubled young man. He was recovering from a drug addiction I knew nothing about, and was later diagnosed as bipolar. He was extremely jealous and controlling. He told me what to do and when. I felt comfortable with that because it reminded me of my father, and I thought I was less likely to be in danger if someone was looking out for me. Unfortunately over the course of two to three years he experimented with me sexually in ways that were very perverse. He was turned on by pornography and insisted that we watch it regularly. Whatever damage had been done to me as a child was sealed by this relationship. From then on I would mainly pursue this one type of man—sex addict.
When that relationship ended, I struggled with suicidal thoughts. I then moved to the city, became a drug dealer, and hung out with a group of ‘ravers’ who became my new family. We were a lot of broken kids with almost no parental input. We built a world that eventually came crashing down on us with overdoses, murders, and suicides. When I finally felt I would be just another casualty, I left and went home to my mother’s house to clean up my life. I was ‘scared straight,’ so to speak.
At 18 I began bartending at two of the busiest strip clubs in my city. I easily made a very good income. Once in a while I would strip, usually out of town, because I didn’t want my immediate community to witness it. I did not like stripping, as I felt disrespected, so I pursued modeling, acting, and dance.
I had met my first husband when I was 17. He was one of the ravers, but he hung out with the strippers, and I still saw him around often. At 20 I followed him out west. I never felt as if I could do anything without a man dictating to me. He was very kind to me while we lived in my hometown. For some reason, the minute I got out of my car, after driving thousands of miles to move in with him, he seemed different. Less interested. Cold. I tried to break it off.
I went out once to see a movie with a co-worker, and he drugged me and raped me. I continued to see him for a while and allowed him to continue to have sex with me. I read later that this was a common action for a date rape victim. If I could just convince myself that I had made the choice to have sex with him the first time, I could believe I hadn’t been raped. I needed to not be a victim.
I found out I was pregnant (with my boyfriend’s child), so I reconciled with him and focused on building a home. We were married shortly after the birth of our son. This was the loneliest time of my life. He worked long hours, and when he came home, he went to drink with the neighbors. I had gone from being a beautiful woman, pursued by many men, to being at home, ignored by one. I tried counseling, but he had little interest in attending. Once, I finally felt like I might really commit suicide, I decided instead that I should file for a legal separation. At the advice of the police I changed the locks to the house. That same day he forced his way in, stole the new keys, and became physically violent with me. I did my best to cover my son with my body. Luckily he did not lay a hand on him. He would however spend the next decade trying to prevent me from having custody of my son.
All of the things that happened to me as a child were devastating. But the worst things were always the things that I pursued myself. I finally met a nice man in Hollywood where I was working in the Entertainment business. He was gentle and gave me a lot of compliments. However he was very much a sex addict. It was through his encouragement that I began to take more and more risqué roles in Entertainment. I would google famous actresses before taking a love scene, justifying my work by the fact that I could find similar examples in work they had done. My second husband encouraged me to take roles that were labeled as ‘soft core’ pornography. While there was no actual sex happening in the scenes, the work was made for late-night TV only. I finally stood up for myself and said, no more. I cut ties with all of those casting agents.
But, it wouldn’t end there. His need for me to be objectified and my need to use sex for attention became the perfect storm for me to become one of the stars of a local club for five years as a performer and dancer. It began because my husband had been encouraging me to be a stripper, but I didn’t want to. So, one day he said he had the perfect job for me. It was dancing at a club, but wasn’t really stripping. I took the job. It was a combination of punk rock music and early century burlesque. I became a bit of a legend at the club along with other performers there. Many of us had a punk rock background and a history of rape or abuse. The club drew men and women alike, and we were sometimes featured in the local paper. I felt empowered by the fact that women in the audience were jealous of the attention their boyfriends gave me. Much like Harmony Dust’s story, I eventually only socialized with this group of performers and their families. This was once again my new dysfunctional, makeshift family. I felt I was better than strippers because I could keep my top on and wear ‘hot pants,’ and I chose not to do private dances. But it was nearly the same thing, and there was drug use and violence. I didn’t use drugs at all, frightened by my experiences as a teenager. At a certain point I didn’t even drink alcohol. So, I continued to convince myself that I was different.
After I had been working there a few years, a group of Christian women began to visit the club once a month, or so. They would bring us gifts, nail polish, and lotion, and the gifts would have a little bible verse in them. I’m certain Harmony herself must have come in the club more than once when I was working. We were all so excited when they came, so happy to be given a gift with no strings attached. Surprisingly, I don’t recall any of the dancers ever saying a bad word about them. They didn’t feel that these Christians were judging them. However, I never looked any of the Christians in the eye. I always went to the dressing room and hid until they were gone. I wasn’t proud of my work, no matter how much I pretended to be the coolest person on the planet.
God had an escape route planned for me. I got work on a TV show, and they treated me as honorable and respectable. I wanted more of that, and I quit the nightclub shortly after. Eventually I would become a regular attendee at Harmony’s church. What were the odds of that! When I heard her story, I knew I was one of the women she had been so diligently trying to get a message to. A message that I was loved and honored and there was more for me than what this world had offered. It took years, but Treasures got through to me on a deep level, and in 2009 I rededicated my life to God’s kingdom. I now serve in recovery and other ministries to help lead others out of the darkness. Thank God for Treasures. It may not be an overnight transformation, but, little by little, a heart can be softened, restored, and made whole again by God’s grace.
God has a plan for my life. He always has. What the devil intended for evil, God is able to transform and use for good. I am so grateful to everyone who has prayed over my life. No matter how alone I ever thought I was, someone, somewhere was praying for me. I am never alone, and I am always protected because I am a daughter of the King. He holds my world in His hands.
Even now, I continue to meet weekly with a member of the Treasures Care Team. She works with me as I continue my journey of growth and recovery. This has been an incredibly valuable resource for me during difficult seasons. I also attend Treasures retreats, workshops, and support groups. My wish is that Treasures will be a lifelong resource for others and myself. Thank God for Treasures.
Thank you for letting me share my story.