We’ve all struggled or are struggling with something. We clean up real good when it’s time for church, but if we could all see people behind closed doors we would know the real story. Harmony Star Dust, a former exotic dancer, ministers to those caught up in the sex industry. “This sort of outreach is about relationship,” Dust said. “It’s not abut getting them to change and be like us…it’s about extending our hand in relationships and introducing them to the Lover of our Souls.”
Dust has been to hell and back and has recently published a book, Scars and Stilettos, this past January detailing her journey. She has lived through abuse of every kind and has lived to see the other side. She is the founder and Executive Director of Treasures Ministries, a Los Angeles, CA, based nonprofit organization [outreach and support group] for women in the sex industry.
In her own words:
I met him when I was 11. Somewhere along the way, he became the center of my world. My life belonged to him. I had given it to him.
At first, I felt safe when I was with him. As though he could protect me from some unseen harm. He gave me the disapproving look of a father when I lost my virginity at 14. I can picture him in my living room the day after it happened, head hung low as if something precious had slipped away. I felt cared for. He was always there: through the rapes, heartbreaks, and my parent’s divorce. Steady and constant.
I never intended to begin a relationship with him, I never saw him in that way. Then one night, I wagered my body in a game of cards. I lost. We had sex.
I thought it was casual and meaningless, but on that night, everything changed. The tables turned. Something took form deep inside of me: a suction, a knot, a tie. He began to consume my thoughts in much the same way that the boy I lost my virginity to had. I started wondering where he was and when he was coming home. The familiar fear of loss took over me and I pursued him wildly.
The fear of losing him had its grip on me. I thought that making him financially dependent on me was the only way I could make him stay. I couldn’t bear to be abandoned again. By the age of 15, I was giving him all of what little money I had. By 17, I was stealing money from the cash register at work to fully support him.
No matter how much I gave him, it was never enough. I was never enough and I felt undeserving of love. He constantly validated my feelings of worthlessness with emotional and physical abuse. Throughout most of the time we were together he was unemployed. I silently encouraged his lack of willingness to work by taking it all on myself.
At 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. Whenever I did try to put aside money so that I could quit dancing, “something” always came up and I would give him all of my savings. During one “emergency”, the nature of which he never told me, I handed him more than0 $10,000 in cash.
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. The fear of rejection and judgment kept me isolated from the outside world, until all of the people I had contact with were other strippers, costumers, and my abusive boyfriend. The isolation made it easier for him to control me. He dictated my every move.
To no avail, I did everything I could to please him. He constantly slept with other girls and eventually ended up getting one of them pregnant. One day I went into our bedroom closet and found another woman’s clothing. That is how I found out that he moved his pregnant girlfriend into our home.
I would lay awake at night on the couch, straining to hear what went on behind the closed door of what used to be our bedroom. The muffled sounds of laughter broke my heart, but the silence hurt even more as I envisioned her lying in his arms. There seemed to be no limit to what I would tolerate in order to keep him from leaving me.
The emptiness I felt inside seemed infinite and my self-image continued to decline. Over the course of the next 3 years, being a stripper became my identity. My already tainted view of men seemed permanently damaged. I developed the notion that all men were inherently perverted and sick. I began to use stripping as a way to take back control of my sexuality. I finally felt like I had the upper hand. I learned to exploit for myself, the very thing that men had already exploited…my body.
My view of the world was tarnished. I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking that people saw me in a sexual way. I felt reduced to an object and in “real life”, I tried to hide behind baggy clothes and glasses. All of my efforts and energy were put into trying to make my abusive, dysfunctional relationship work. I thought that my life and existence was hopeless and that the relationship was the only salvageable thing left. In my search for one good and pure thing, I clung onto my boyfriend with all of my strength and sacrificed my dignity to keep him in my life. All of my adoration, love and worship were focused on a person who was too selfish to ever really love me.
In retrospect, I can see that God’s heart was deeply pained by my brokenness. He wanted nothing more that to extend his hand to me and show me my beauty and worth—to help me see the value I never saw in myself.
Like a gentleman, He pursued me with his infinite love until he captured my heart. I finally met a Lover who would never leave me—the only One who could satisfy my needs. He 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.
The journey since has not always been easy and I have made mistakes along the way, but I have discovered that the pain of staying the same is far greater than the pain of change. My frantic search for a man’s love to complete me is over. I am not perfect, but I am whole and I am free.
Precious woman, I promise you…if you are facing a challenging time, there is hope. You are not alone. Your One True Love is calling your name.