My name is Monique and I am a Treasure.
I’m not who I used to be, I’ve risen from the ashes of my past and I am living proof that you can rewrite your story. Although…I do have invisible scars, there are things that have happened that will remain with me, but they do not define me, not anymore.
I always wanted that “Full House” kind of family, the one where the dad gives his little girl a big hug and kiss when she gets home and let’s her know how much he loves her, even when she makes a mistake. But that wasn’t my reality. Instead, my childhood is overshadowed with memories of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. I felt overlooked and worthless and I spent endless nights pleading with God to take my life, because I couldn’t bear another day of misery. All I wanted was to be loved by my father, to be his little princess and for him to be my hero.
My parents worked a lot, so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, they practically raised me. Although, I was yearning for the love of my father, I hated when he was home. Things were always tense and he would fly off the handle about any little thing. He also spoke negatively about my mom and was very vocal about women being good for nothing. From a very young age I fought against this ideology and my father’s constant put downs birthed a deep hatred for men within me. The abuse added to the fiery hatred until it grew into an all out inferno. My childlike wonder and innocence was officially stolen from me. No longer was I a soft sweet little girl, I had lost respect for my father and I was now an angry little girl who hated men.
In High School my invisible wounds were bleeding out, but somehow I managed a rigorous schedule filled with AP, Honor’s Classes, and a whole slew of extra curricular. I then became the first person in my family to go college! Things were finally starting to turn around for me. Then, something happened that changed the whole trajectory of my life. My grandfather, the only positive male influence in my life, passed away during my first week away at college. I didn’t know how to deal. I had never lost anyone that close to me before. I fell apart, the whole family fell apart to be honest, instead of coming together, we all withdrew. I was mad at God, how could He take my grandfather away from me? The only man in my life who loved me, who took care of me, who would come to my rescue?? I decided I would get back at God- After saving myself for marriage for 21 years, I fell into a life of extreme promiscuity.
I used alcohol and sex to escape the sadness and depression. I ruined an 8-year relationship to my high school sweetheart. I didn’t find myself worthy of love so I would self-sabotage every relationship or nice person that came my way. I recognized the crazy person I had become and I embraced her. I became selfish, violent, reckless and mean. From that day forward I decided that I was going to be a Black Widow- I wanted to hurt men and make them feel unloved and worthless just how my dad had made me feel all those years.
I graduated from Loyola Marymount Cum Laude, but I had to move back home. I hated living at home, my father was still ignoring me and putting me down. I had to get out of there, I had to do something and I had to do it fast. And so it began, I auditioned for a Go-Go Dancing Company and started getting a lot of work.
One night when I was go-go dancing at a Bachelor Party, the guys called me inside the house. They had ordered two strippers and they were about to do their show. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next.
My jaw hit the floor and I had to literally turn away during parts of the show. Later that night as the girls counted their mountain of money, one of them told me, “ You’re cute, the guys would really like you.” I thanked her but I explained that I don’t take my clothes off for money. She gave me her card anyway. That card was literally burning a hole in my pocket for a week straight. I kept thinking of how I could get out of debt and away from my father. So, I made the call and just like that I was in.
I became a party stripper and soon enough, I was able to move out of my parent’s house and buy a new car. I finally felt in control. Kiki, that was my stripper name, she was the Queen Bee. She gave me a false sense of power. Whatever Kiki wanted, she got. But in my real life I was still powerless. I wanted to be respected and honored but I fell for the wrong men, I was used and abused, seeking love in all the wrong places. I was used for sex so much that even in my personal life I felt like a prostitute.
Then I met Prince Charming. He was everything I thought I wanted… smart, blue eyes, fun and danced like a white boy. I was beginning to think about leaving the industry and one night as I was between gigs, my boyfriend and I were driving down Abbot Kinney in Venice, when I saw what looked like a Pop-Up Art Gallery. I love art, and it was popping, so we pulled over, and walked right in.
As I was walking around looking at the different pieces of art, I began to notice a theme. I saw women who were hurting, I got the sense that sex or the sex industry had caused these women pain. I then began to wonder if they could tell what I was. I became a little uneasy, but before I was able to run out of there Harmony approached me. Turns out, Harmony used to be a stripper, she was really sweet and I felt safe with her, like she understood me. She told me about Treasures and that it existed to support women like me. She told me that I am valuable and that there is a plan for my life. I left speechless, this was too much of a coincidence. From that moment on Treasures and her words were on my mind.
I was a magnet for crazy situations but what happened next, I never saw coming. My boyfriend and I went to an estate party and got drunk out of our minds. My sweet, dreamy boyfriend flipped the switch, got thrown out of the party, and was nowhere to be found. I was waiting in the car, hoping he would remember where we parked, when I heard someone banging on the window. It was him and he was furious. Turns out, the cops roughed him up and he was blaming me. The next thing I knew, he was trying to pull me out of the car through the window.
I was freaking out and the only rational thing I could think of was to drive away from him. He continued in his pursuit to try and yank me out of the car when he lost his grip, fell to the ground and I ran him over.
After that, it was nothing short of a fiasco, I was fingerprinted, cavity searched and booked with bail set at $100,000.00
How did I end up here? How did this happen?
As I dragged my mat to my jail cell, I couldn’t help but play back the tape of my life. I kept hoping that I would wake up. I had hit rock bottom. As I sat on my bunk and went through the items they gave me that were in a medium sized cardboard box, I came across something that I hadn’t seen in awhile. Something that I had purposely stayed away from…The Bible, and what it represented.
I sat with my arms crossed and my face turned away. I had turned my back on God when my Grandfather passed away…I began to think, “ no one knows where I’m at and nobody cares”. But, if He really was real, He was all I got. So I begrudgingly, took the Bible in my hands and said, “if you get me out of this one God, I promise I will stop doing what I am doing, I will live my life for you”.
I wish I could tell you that I was miraculously released from jail and cured of all my heartache and brokenness…but this was only the beginning. I continued to work in the sex industry and wasn’t sure what was to become of me. The first lawyer I spoke to said I could be facing Attempted Murder charges. I was living in a constant state of fear, my future was in someone else’s hands and there wasn’t anything that I could do about it.
After about eight months of waiting, the verdict was in. The DA asked to see me before we went into court… he told me that stated that he was dropping all charges. I couldn’t believe it, I was seriously in shock.
God had come through on his end of the deal, now it was my turn. I left the Industry in September of 2011. This was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I had to leave the life I created for myself-my dream apartment, my car, the lifestyle and I had to move back home and share a room with my sister, have no income coming in and what I was dreading most… I had to live with my father again.
It was game time, there wasn’t anymore running from my problems, I had to face them head on. In the two years to follow, there were times of extreme hardship and testing. I wanted to give up, I wanted to go back to the money, but I knew that it was time to press in, so with gritted teeth and tears, I stuck it through. There was still all kinds of emotional and psychological stuff that I had to work through.
Then, the coolest thing happened. I felt something inside of me prompt me to apply to be a missionary. I thought this was a crazy thought, who is going to want a psycho, ex-stripper who ran her boyfriend over as a missionary? Nonetheless, I applied and you wouldn’t believe it…I was accepted for a nine-month mission in the Philippines!!! And to top it off, I had thought that my degree was a waste and that everything I had done up to that point was useless, but the job description listed every single gift, talent and type of education that I had. I was extremely encouraged and was determined to raise the money to go. Within months, I was able to raise my budget and off I went across the world.
I learned so much about myself and who I was destined to be while serving in the Philippines. A renewed perspective on my life was unleashed and I was ready to receive it now. I learned to cast off my old self; the selfishness, the addictions, the anger, the violence, it was all being buried and this new Monique was emerging from the ashes. It was on the remote Island of Taal, when I was sharing my story, that I finally knew what I was created for.
Recently, I found a blog where Harmony tells the story of when I stumbled into the Treasures art exhibit back in February of 2010. Here is an exert from what she wrote about our encounter:
At one point, a girl walked in off of the street. As it turns out, she works as a stripper and “just happened” to be walking by because her private gig that night got cancelled. She went on to tell me that she wants to leave the business but doesn’t know how. I had the chance to encourage her and tell her that she is valuable and that I believe there is a plan for her life. I let her know that Treasures is committed to helping women live in a way that reflects this. We were able to exchange information and give her my book along with some other resources. Even though I know that we impacted hundreds of people that night, even if it was all for her, it was worth it!
I still can’t get over that line, “even if it was all for her, it was worth it”. Me… I was worth it, if Treasures hadn’t been there that night, I would not be here six years later sharing my story with you.
I am a living testament that organizations like Treasures really do accomplish what they set out to do. When I came back from the Philippines in 2014, I reconnected with Treasures and began volunteering on the Outreach Team. I also serve as the Host for the Treasures Support Group.
Treasures has brought purpose to my pain and has been a catalyst to a new perspective that I have on life. I am no longer a victim of my circumstances. I choose peace, I choose freedom, I choose to dream, I choose hope, I choose to fight and press in when my circumstances are not favorable. I choose to believe that I am loved, valued and purposed.
Once a month I get to go into the clubs with the Treasures Team to bring love to the girls who may never have experienced, a no strings attached kind of love.
I have had the honor to walk alongside other Treasures as they walk through the mental, emotional, and spiritual struggles that come with leaving the industry.
In the Treasures Support Group, I learned about Boundaries and what a Safe Person is. Although I’ve been out of the Industry for about five years, there are still days that I struggle with working a “normal job” and there are still thoughts of going back that creep into mind. Having women I can go to who know and understand what I am going through and let me vent or express my feelings with no judgment has been so helpful. Before I would feel ashamed for having these thoughts, but now I know that it’s normal and I am not a bad person or weak just because I have a moment. I’m healthier, thanks to Treasures.
I’ve risen from the ashes of my past, I am healed and whole, no longer carrying the label of worthless, unwanted and unloved. I am not just a survivor, I am an overcomer and a liberator.
In June, I went back to the Philippines with Treasures to train organizations how to effectively and lovingly serve those in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking! What was meant to destroy me became the impetus to my destiny. I get to help others see their value and feel loved, so that they too can step into their new life and walk in freedom.