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Celebrate Recovery

Escaping Sex Exploitation: A Celebrate Recovery Story

Hello, my name is Harmony and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ that struggles with codependency and I am no longer in a relationship with a sexually addicted man.

I grew up in a violent home in a violent neighborhood. My mother struggled with addiction to cocaine, and my father left before I was a year old. One of my earliest memories is of him watching porn in the bed next to me during one of my weekend visits. I couldn’t have been older than 3 or 4.

After that, I was sexually abused by multiple people throughout my life, both men and women. One of my abusers was my mother’s boyfriend. I finally stood up for myself and ran away from home to get away from him. My mother eventually kicked him out and convinced me to come home. Soon after, when I was 13, my mother left me alone with my 8-year-old brother for three months. We had to fend for ourselves while she chased after her boyfriend. She left us with $20 and a book of food stamps.

I started stealing from the liquor store to feed us. I would have my little brother wait outside on the corner so he wouldn’t get in trouble if I got caught.

During that time, I began a relationship with an older boy from my neighborhood. When he was around, I didn’t have to worry about stealing because he would buy us food. Wise to the streets with several older siblings in “the life,” he made me feel protected in our gang-ridden neighborhood. I became deeply attached to him. This is a trauma bond.

As we grew closer, he became more abusive and controlling. His abusive behavior was familiar to me because that was all I had ever seen modeled in relationships. Eventually, this relationship led me into the sex industry at 19, when I began working as a stripper.

Me, at 19, soon after I began stripping.

In essence, my boyfriend became my pimp. The idea of having a normal life seemed further and further away. I was a quiet, conservative college student by day, and someone else’s fantasy by night. Gradually, I began to lose sight of who I was, and became lost in makeup, stilettos, and the glare of stage lights. I felt fragmented and compartmentalized.

My life continued to unravel over the course of the next three years. I developed the notion that all men are inherently perverted and sick. I began to use stripping to take back control of my sexuality. I learned to exploit for myself what men had already exploited: my body.

During this time of my life I met a girl whose friendship changed me. Through her love and care for me, she showed me the unconditional love of God until I was finally compelled to seek him for myself.

When I showed up to church for the first time, I immediately had a sense that I was home. I determined to get there anytime the doors opened. At church, I began learning that I am loved, valued, and purposed. As this truth sunk into my heart, it became a game changer.

I remember the night that I was standing in the middle of the strip club and it hit me: “If I have been created with a purpose, this can’t be it,” I thought as I looked around the room.

The more I learned about God and who he created me to be, the more impossible it became to live in a way that contradicted it.

I finally decided that I would commit my life to Jesus and that I was going to do whatever it took to live the life he has called me to live. He began to fill the deep voids in my life that had caused me to search for my significance in a man. Eventually, I quit stripping, left my abusive boyfriend/pimp, and committed myself to live completely for him.

I returned to UCLA to complete a master’s in social welfare. As I pursued my degree, God simultaneously put a call in my heart to reach women trapped in the sex industry like I once was. In 2003, I founded Treasures, an outreach and support group to women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking. I began to see how God not only wanted to set me free from my past but also to use it to bring freedom to others.

As the only organization of its kind based in the adult industry capital of the world (San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County), it is one of the few survivor-led organizations in the country. Our mission is to reach, restore, and equip women to help them live healthy, flourishing lives.

As well as calling us to serve women locally, God has expanded the vision of Treasures to reach women on a global scale! Through our Sex Industry Outreach and Care Training program, we train, equip, and mobilize other churches and leaders to develop sex industry outreaches in their communities. So far, we have helped launch and train sex industry outreaches in over 100 cities on six continents!

Celebrate Recovery has been a huge instrument in my own recovery journey. I am so honored and excited that CR is partnering with Treasures and engaging in the anti-trafficking initiative. It is so important for Celebrate Recovery to offer safe, non-judgmental, loving groups for those escaping sex exploitation. Together, using the incredible recovery principles of CR along with the outreach model of Treasures, I do believe that we can make a difference in our cities and in our fight against sex trafficking.

God took the hollow and empty pit inside me that had been carved out by a lifetime of disappointment and despair, and he filled it with hope, love, and purpose. God is taking the pain and brokenness of my past and using it to show others freedom.

Harmony Dust founded Treasures Ministries, a faith-based, survivor-led outreach and support group to women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking in 2003. She completed a Master’s Degree in Social Work at UCLA before going on to work as a Children’s Social Worker at the Department of Children Services. As a sex-industry overcomer, Harmony is passionate about assisting women in their journey of healing and transformation. 

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