“By the time I was 19 years old, I was over $35,000 in debt. I was losing control. Young, naïve, and hopeless, I began stripping. My intention was to work for a couple of months in order to pay off my bills. Then I could return to a ‘normal’ life. I found myself trapped in the lifestyle. Wads of cash filled my hands, but nothing seemed to satisfy the void in my heart. In essence, my boyfriend became my pimp. Every night, I came home and gave him all of my money. I had convinced myself that I didn’t deserve it anyway, and I figured that the more dependent on me he was, the less likely he would be to leave me. His vision of selling me finally came to pass. The idea of having a normal life seemed further and further away. At first, I led a double life; 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 make-up, stilettos, and the glare of stage lights. I felt fragmented and compartmentalized. Fear of rejection and judgment kept me isolated from the outside world, until all of the people I had contact with were other strippers, customers, and my abusive boyfriend. The isolation made it easier for him to control me. He dictated my every move. And it seemed like anything could set him off. Not enough ice in his Mountain Dew. Too much ice in his Mountain Dew. Cold French fries. If the house wasn’t clean enough. If I made too much noise while I cleaned it. My life unraveled like an episode of Jerry Springer. My boyfriend started sleeping with my co-workers and getting them to give him their money too. At the time, we didn’t seem to notice we were being pimped.” -Harmony Dust [full text linked above]
I can still remember the first time I read Harmony’s story; when I came to the words “lost in…the glare of the stage lights”, I felt sure this was a story I would never forget.
After leaving her own stage, Harmony began looking for ways to encourage other dancers and industry girls. Treasures, a non-profit organization which she founded, now reaches people everyday. On the website alone, there are dozens of stories from women AND men who have left the sex industry and found a new life.
To learn more about Harmony and Treasures, you can read her autobiography, “Scars and Stilettos: the Transformation of an Exotic Dancer”.
You can also listen to Harmony talk about her life, her book, and the hope she has found here: http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/SUS145_HarmonyDust_030210_WS