"I Am Treasure" Ministry Reached Over 1500 Women Working at Strip Club and Sex Club During Outreach
By Harmony Dust, I Am Treasure - Crossmap On July 26, 2013
The doors were opened to us at 46 out of the 47 places we visited. Everywhere from the mom and pop owned sex club to the largest strip club in the world. The favor and welcome we receive never ceases to amaze me.
Throughout the weekend, women shared their dreams and business ideas, struggles as single mothers, and some, their longing for a different life. Before the first night of outreach was even over, one precious woman signed up to receive a care package on our website.
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The weekend was especially significant for Kate, a Treasures volunteer, who was returning to Vegas for the first time in 18 years. Nearly 2 decades ago, she went to Vegas with a client while she was still working in the sex industry. He left her stranded without a penny to her name. She vowed to God that if He helped her get out of Vegas, she would never go back. She pawned the only possession she had, a small ring, and bought a one-way ticket to LA.
Last weekend, Kate, returned to Vegas with a redeemed purpose and a story to share with the women she encountered. It was a time of taking back ground for Kate and we were honored to walk beside her.
Although the weekend was filled with wondrous moments, like when 2 women stopped dancing and sat cross-legged on stage to try on their new bracelets and lip gloss like teens at a slumber party, it was also peppered with instances that reminded us of the gravity of these environments. Women and children bought and sold in unmarked corridors, vacant stares and apathetic bystanders. Even after 10 years of outreach and having been in the sex industry myself, some of what I saw was enough to steal my sleep.
Saturday morning came quickly and it was time to head to the Las Vegas Juvenile Detention Center. Thanks to a new friend who works as a supervisor at juvie and truly has a heart for the girls, Kate, Larissa and I had the chance to share our stories with them.
We were told that 1/3 of them are being detained for "solicitation". Essentially this means that they are not criminals as their orange and blue jail-wear and tiny cells would suggest, but are in fact, victims of sex trafficking. Still, they are arrested and detained for lack of other means of keeping them off of the streets and away from their pimps.
While I appreciate the dilemma that law enforcement and the courts must face, it does not take the sting in my heart away. They have been bought and sold by grown men. In any other case, sex with a minor is rape. But when there is money involved, the child is arrested like a criminal.
When victims, children at that, are treated like criminals, I can't imagine how that must impact their identity formation. Even if the masses look upon them with compassionate eyes and shaking heads, assuring them that they are truly victims, that they are not to blame, the facts of their circumstances tell them otherwise.
The time that we were scheduled to leave the juvenile detention center came and went. The girls were filled with questions and eager for answers.
"How did you leave him?" "What about your mom?" "Where is your brother?" "Do you regret your life?" "Will it get better?"
The warm-hearted detention center staff person who granted us the opportunity to speak to the girls allowed us to stay and answer every one of them.
When we finally left, I think a piece of me stayed there with them. It has been difficult to keep my mind from drifting back to that place.
There is a stirring in me happening that is reminiscent of what I felt in the moment Treasures was birthed. Sitting across the street from the strip club where I used to work, feeling like a prisoner standing on the outside of the place I had been held captive, I knew I had to do something.
I am feeling the same way today. I don't have all the answers yet, but I am seeing pieces of a vision coming together.
My friend Sandie Morgan often shares the story of the method a mental hospital in India uses in order to determine whether or not the patients are ready to leave. They place a bucket full of water under a running faucet and hand the patient a teaspoon. If the patient fails to turn off the faucet before trying to empty the bucket, they get to stay in the mental hospital.
At Treasures, many of the women we serve are those that have slipped through the faucet of foster care and detention centers. They are yesterday's victims. The run-aways and "throw-aways". They are the adult children of abusive homes and harsh circumstances. Somehow, we have to find a way to begin to turn the knob on the faucet off.
We may not be able to do everything for the girls I met that day, but I know we have to do something. I have some ideas brewing and I am praying for God-strategy to know exactly what that something is.
Check out this video clip from our 10th Annual Vegas Outreach http://t.co/XAAWJoOpOi
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