Treasures: Outreach and Support for Women in the Sex Industry

Filed under Organizations & Causes Your World on Nov 17 12 by

Treasures

Last week, we featured an interview with Harmony Dust, author of Scars and Stilettos and founder of Treasures, a faith-based outreach and support group for women in the sex industry. Harmony gave us a glimpse into the past that has brought her to the place she is at today, as well as a look at the struggles she faced with writing her memoir. Today, we give you a closer look at what it takes to run a ministry that reaches out to women working in the sex industry, and why this ministry is necessary.

YOU ARE: What challenges and struggles have you faced as you started and continue to run this organization?

HARMONY: I believe leadership is very much about stewardship. Leading a ministry is a huge responsibility. One of the biggest challenges is managing the responsibility well. This requires seeking God in a fierce way, and it requires a tremendous amount of dependency on Him and trust in His provision and His plan.

The other challenge is navigating personal boundaries in the face of the needs and crisis of other people. For many years, I worked an insane amount of hours trying to fix every problem that came my way. I have learned the value of self care, personal boundaries, and relying on the Holy Spirit to show me what my role is. And I have learned the hard way [that] just because the people around me are in crisis doesn’t mean that I have to be in crisis too. I am sure my daughter will thank me for this one day. Our home is a much more peaceful place.

YOU ARE: Many people believe women working in the sex industry enjoy it and are choosing this life. Is this true?

HARMONY: The issue of choice and sex work is a murky one. Of course there are some women and children in the sex industry that are there by force, but a large majority of women in the sex industry would probably say that they are there by choice.

However, it is important to take a step back and look at “their choice” to see the larger issues at play. Their choice is shaped by a number of factors. Often what we see are women who come from a background of sexual abuse (research shows that up to 95% were sexually abused as children). Sexual abuse teaches victims to become familiar with being sexualized and objectified. Also, many women in the sex industry lack healthy social support networks, [such as] family and friends. Add to this a challenging economy and a lack of education and employable job skills, and you have the perfect storm. Place this woman in the context of a culture where there is a demand for sex—a culture that spends over 3 million dollars every second on porn. For this woman, sex work seems like a solution to her problems. It seems like a good choice.

Often, her “choice” has to do with the above-mentioned factors along with a lack of other viable options. I have heard it said that if you ask a woman in the sex industry if she is there by choice, she will say yes. If you ask her what her other options are, she won’t have an answer.

YOU ARE: What are some other important myths and statistics that explain why organizations like Treasures are so important?

HARMONY: I could probably write a book about this. But for now, here are some relevant stats.

YOU ARE: You’ve said, “I thought something was inherently wrong with me that kept attracting that kind of attention.” What would you say to a girl that is still feeling that way? What helped you to move past this belief system?

HARMONY: For me, it was a process of discovering who I am in God and who He created me to be. I had to uncover those things I thought about myself that were not rooted in truth and replace them with what really is true about me. [I had to take] every thought captive.

If someone reading this is struggling to figure out what is true, here is a good place to start.

YOU ARE: What services does Treasures provide?

Harmony: Here are some of the services we provide:

We do outreach. Treasures’ team reaches thousands of women as we visit porn conventions and 170 strip clubs annually. We give out gift bags filled with cosmetics, jewelry, and the simple message that the women are loved, valued, and purposed, and that support is available to them.

We pray. Treasures has an extended network of prayer partners who commit to pray for Treasures outreaches and the women we work with.

We have a Care Team. The Care Team provides peer mentoring, encouragement, and a listening ear as women share their life experiences and current struggles.

We have a support group. Treasures offers a therapist-led support group for women who are, or have been, in the sex industry. This is a safe place where women can experience peer support, community, and an opportunity for healing and restoration.

We give care packages. Each woman who contacts Treasures receives an individualized care package, including books and resources, intended to inspire her in her faith and healing.

We provide ongoing care. Ongoing encouragement in the form of devotions, hand-written cards, and invitations to be a part of Treasures gatherings is provided throughout the year in order to foster trust and relationships.

YOU ARE: Why is this type of outreach so effective?

HARMONY: I think this type of outreach is so effective because we aren’t going into these places with condemnation and judgment, but grace and love. We don’t go in as experts, telling women what they should do with their lives, but as conduits of a message that they are loved, valued, and purposed. We believe that as God pursues them with His unfailing love, it will be the Holy Spirit that does a work in their lives that would inspire transformation.

YOU ARE: What has been the most rewarding part of your experience?

HARMONY: The most rewarding part of my experience is watching the women we serve embark on the journey from survivor, to overcomer, to liberator. It is such a beautiful thing to see women come to a place in their lives where they are not only free, but they are committed to leading others to freedom.

As Nelson Mandela has said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Want to learn more about Treasures?

Visit their website at iamatreasure.com.

View all posts by

Catherine Smith
Catherine graduated from Western Carolina University with a degree in Education and has experiencing teaching both elementary and high school students. Catherine is passionate about helping women connect with their true purpose and discover their value. As the Community Relations Director, Catherine manages our outreach projects, events, and relationships with other organizations that support women.