From my dawn of consciousness to about age seven, a member of my family pursued a relationship with me that was inappropriate. He treated me much like a man would treat a girlfriend; buying me jewelry, taking me out to eat, and eventually sexually abusing me.
After this ended my mother began to take my siblings and I to a local church. It was a wonderful experience for me, to learn about God and study the bible. Then, at age ten, I was pressured into a sexual encounter with a leader in the church who was about 15 at the time. We soon left that church, but not because I told anyone about the situation.
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 found I could get approval from sexual interactions with others. It seemed to be built into me that my purpose was to please men. This message had been sent to me through these early sexual experiences as a child, and it would take many years to realize there was any other purpose for me in relationship to men.
My father was a reformed drug dealer and drug user. However, he traded in that lifestyle for religion, and became very controlling. 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. So when a boyfriend wanted to have sex with me I did not have the ability to stop when things went farther than I had intended. I doubt the young man ever even noticed that I was not comfortable with what was happening.
At some point in my 20s I realized that I could have ‘power’ over my sexual encounters by being in ‘control’ of the situations. This lead me to a life of stripping and soft core pornography.
I eventually only socialized with this group of performers and their families. This was my new dysfunctional, makeshift family. I thought I was better than other strippers because I could keep my top on and wore ‘hot pants,’ and I chose not to do private dances. But it was nearly the same thing, and there was drug use and violence around me. I didn’t use drugs at this point or 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 women from Treasures 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.
We were all so excited when they came, so happy to be given a gift with no strings attached. We never once felt judged by this group of women. However, I never looked any of them 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.
But, God had an escape route planned for me. I got work on a TV show, and they treated me with honor and respect. I wanted more of that, and I quit the club shortly after. Eventually I would become a regular attendee at Harmony’s church. What are the odds!? 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 Christ. I now work and serve ministries to help lead others out of their brokenness.
I have thanked God for Treasures many times. 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 always had a plan for my life, and I have watched it unfold over recent years. 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 with members of the Treasures Care Team. They work 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.
I’m so grateful that God gives me opportunities in my life and work to help build others up, and I look forward to seeing what else He has in store for me and the many beautiful women in Los Angeles and around the world touched by this ministry and others like it. Thank God for Treasures, and thank you for letting me share my story.