An Exit

I Want Out…What Can I do?

By Harmony Dust

Founder of Treasures Ministry in Los Angeles and author of Scars and Stilettos

Links recommended have been localized.

*NOTE: Take a deep breath. You don’t have to read this all at once. Every journey begins with a single step. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, just read a paragraph at a time. And remember to take some time to answer the reflection questions.

START AT THE ROOT

Take an honest look at what led you into the business in the first place. Was it simply financial need that drove you? Or like many women, did you find yourself lured in by desire for male attention? Did working in the industry offer a false promise of sexual power after experiences of abuse and victimization?

Figuring out the root of your decision to enter the sex industry may help you uncover a path out. For example, if financial necessity is at the root, perhaps the path out involves getting help with budgeting, money management and job searching skills. If it was a matter of reaction to abuse in your past, perhaps counseling or a support group to address this pain will be a part of your journey.

And for many of you, it may be a combination of these factors, and your needs may be multi-faceted.

If this is the case, take a deep breath…

You don’t have to tackle everything at once. We all start somewhere. Much of this journey will be putting one foot in front of the other and fixing your eyes on God. He will show you the way out. Take a moment and answer the next questions.

Reflection Questions
• What led you into the sex industry?
• What is the major thing that is keeping you there?

OBSTACLES

Especially if you are feeling overwhelmed right now, breaking your situation down into manageable chunks may help you. It is important to begin assessing what the biggest obstacle you are facing right now is? Is it finances? Is it a relationship that is holding you back? Is it an addiction?

Honestly evaluating the obstacles that are keeping you from where you want to be will also help point you to your next step. Below are some possible obstacles you might be facing and some ideas to get you jumpstarted. This is not a magic formula or anything, but some ideas to get you solution focused. You might come up with an entirely different first step.

Major Obstacle #1: FINANCES

For many women desiring to leave the industry, this is the biggest challenge. How will you find another job where you can make as much money as quickly? The truth is, you likely won’t be able to. Especially if you are making a lot of money in the industry.

So your first step might be figuring out ways to lower your overhead. For me, this required a major overhaul in my spending habits and adjustments in my living arrangements. Below are some ideas on how to lower your overhead:

First, write down all of your monthly expenses. Once you have it all on paper, you can start figuring out ways to trim the fat. Perhaps it’s time to cut the cable, trade in your leased car, or find a roommate to help with housing expenses. Some might find a debt management program like www.moneymentors.ca helpful to reduce monthly credit card payments. While these programs may cause a ding in your credit, weigh the cost. Is staying in this situation you are in worth having perfect credit?

I (Harmony) can tell you from personal experience, that as I took steps in the areas listed above, I watched God do His part and provide for me along the way.

Once you have figured out how to trim the fat in your budget. You may be ready to start looking into alternative employment options. What are your passions? What is the dream in your heart? God cares about this and I truly believe that He has a plan for your life, plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future! (Jeremiah 29:11).

One Step At a Time…
At this point in the process, I see a lot of women get so stuck in the “big vision dream” that they get too overwhelmed to take the first step. Here is an example of the line of thinking I am talking about…

“I want to leave the sex industry, but I don’t know what else to do. I have always wanted to be a [lawyer, vet, stylist, business owner etc] but I don’t have the experience or education. I can’t get the job I want, so how will I ever leave the business?”

In addiction recovery, people are often encouraged to get what is called a “sobriety job”. This is a starting point job. And the idea is to get a low-stress job that will enable you to focus on rebuilding your life.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Your dreams, aspirations and career goals are important, and I believe that God has a road map for you on how to get there. In the meantime, start where you are and put one foot in front of the other. You can make the entire journey that way.

One idea would be to look into getting a job through a temp agency. Often times, these agencies help you secure permanent job placement through temp work. Find employment resources here.

Looking for Work
To start your job search, the first thing you will need is a resume. I found myself feeling discouraged at this point in the process because there was a “gap” in my employment history from the time I was in the sex industry. I didn’t have any recent job experience to include on my resume.

Here is where you can get creative. Have you volunteered for any organizations? Done babysitting for your friends? Think about all of your experiences, not just the ones you have been paid for. And you may even be able to use your most recent experience in the sex industry in a way that does not reveal the full details of what you have been doing. For example, if you have been doing internet porn, you probably have some skills in internet sales and marketing you can refer to. If you have been working in a strip club, you can mention “customer service” and skills in “hosting.” Click here for a creative resume using sex industry experience.

Reflection Questions

• What are you passionate about?
• What are some of your strengths?
• How do you feel about the idea of a recovery job?
• What are your fears about looking for a new job?
• What kind of support will you need to do this?

Major Obstacle #2: RELATIONSHIPS

Humans are relational beings. I truly believe that we were created for relationships. Sometimes, our inherent desire for connection leads us to relationships with people that are not healthy. To the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet. (Proverbs 27:7)

In my own life, desperate need for relationship and connection (minus self-worth and a healthy gauge) had me caught in an abusive relationship for 7 years. The dysfunction of our relationship became so familiar to me that it was almost comfortable. The alternative, being alone, seemed unfathomable.

Work in the sex industry isolated me even further. The only people I had “relationships” with were my abusive boyfriend, other girls in the business who seemed to be going through just as much as me, and customers. Have you ever heard the saying, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future?” Kind of scary considering the people I was surrounding myself with.

I believe the healthy relationships with healthy people are a KEY component to growth and success in life. Honestly evaluate the relationships in your life? Are you surrounded by people who want the best for you, speak to your potential, and are making good choices in their own lives? Or are your friendships draining, one-sided, or centered around “partying”?

One girl I spoke to started making changes in her life and her friend told her, “You don’t need to quit stripping. Just work smarter, not harder.” This was not a friend who was willing to support her in the new choices she was making in her life.

I am not saying you should cut off all of your relationships and never speak to these people again (although some situations may warrant this). But it might be time to broaden your circle of friends to include some new relationships with safe, healthy people. Finding a healthy, thriving church where you can start to build new community is a great way to do this. Treasures has trained strip club outreaches throughout the US and Canada. Getting connected with one near you would be a great place to find a safe group of women to connect with. Click here for a list of outreaches to women in the sex industry to find one near you.

You may also find, as I did, that some of the people you thought were your friends, don’t like “the new you”. Don’t take it personal. When we start making healthy choices in our lives, some people start to get uncomfortable. It is almost as if they are being confronted with a mirror and some people don’t like what they see.

How do you know if they are safe, healthy people? Look at the fruit in their lives. What kinds of outcomes are their choices producing? A really great book that has helped me in this area is “Safe People” by Cloud and Townsend.

Reflection Questions

• Who are your friends? Are they safe and supportive?
• How can you engage in new, supportive relationships?
• What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with?

Major Obstacle #3: Giving Up a Sense of Control

When I first started stripping, I had a false sense of empowerment. I felt like for the first, time I could exploit for myself what had always been exploited, my sexuality. Those of you who entered sex work in hopes of taking back control of your sexuality after experiencing sexual abuse and rape may feel anxiety about feeling powerless again.

It sounds like a paradox, but there is great freedom in surrender. God is good. His character is good. He has a plan for your life and He is trustworthy. As I have surrendered my life and will to Him, I have found all of the strength I need to face what is in front of me.

One of the main areas where I found it most difficult to surrender was in the area of finances. I wondered if God would really provide for me. Any time I was tempted to go back, it was usually when I was feeling financially desperate or out of control. I can honestly say that God has provided. As I have stepped out and trusted Him in this area and learned how to manage my finances in a way that honors Him, I have always had my needs met.

Surrendering is easier said than done. I have discovered that surrender and trust is a byproduct of relationship. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him enough to surrender. So the best thing you can do is commit to developing your relationship with Him.

Reflection Questions

• What are the major obstacles you are facing?
• For each obstacle you mentioned above, list at least one first step you can take towards overcoming that obstacle.


This information is just to help you get started. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. We are here to support you. Perhaps your first step will involve connecting with someone from our care team or joining the Priceless Support Group.
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