Rescuing Women from the Sex Industry
By Zsa Zsa Palagyi
The 700 Club
“I would lead men to believe that I would be with them,” Harmony says. “If they'd say, ‘Will you come away with me? Will you marry me? I’ll leave my wife for you.’ I’d say, ‘Oh, I don’t know. I don't know if I could do that,’ but not like that ‘no.’ I’d make them think that there was a chance and that they should keep trying and basically coming in and spending money trying to convince me to be with them, knowing I would never in a million years go off with any one of them.”
Harmony Dust was a stripper in Los Angeles. Her stage name was “Monique”.
“At first, I only thought I would do it for a couple of months,” she says. “I just became really caught up in the life.”
Professionally, she had everything under control. But Harmony’s personal life was another story.
“I needed the money to keep the boyfriend. It was like a Jerry Springer episode where I’m supporting him, his baby, and his baby’s mama,” she says. “You know, he moved his pregnant girlfriend in and I’m sleeping on the couch. And I thought if I left him, I’d just end up with another guy who’s just as bad, so why not try to stick around and make this guy work… maybe I can change him if I try hard enough.”
Harmony’s parents split up when she was little, so she was used to pain.
“When I was five years old, I was molested by two women. I was molested by an older boy, and then when I was 12 or 13, and then an older man, and then I was raped by an ex-boyfriend of mine repeatedly,” Harmony says. “I felt like there was something really wrong with me that I kept attracting those situations again and again. I didn’t just think about killing myself. I tried. I tried to slit my wrists. I took bottles of pills.”
Ultimately, Harmony toughened up, especially while working at the strip clubs.
“We all come up with rules for ourselves, boundaries. One of my boundaries was no touching. So if a man crossed that boundary, I would take my stiletto off and beat them with it. I was just so angry. There was so much rage that I was just ready to fight at any moment. But deep down inside, I was ashamed of myself; I was ashamed of what I was doing. I felt completely isolated,” she says.
Then, Harmony met a friend who invited her to church.
“I didn’t want to go because I was afraid of being judged,” she says. “What ultimately led me to say that I’d go with her is that she loved me so unconditionally and I did not feel condemned when I was around her. And I thought if she’s cool, maybe her church is cool too. I saw something in her life that I was missing. When I went to church with her, I felt like I was home. I learned from the Bible, which says it, and from how people treated me at my church, that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. There came a point where I heard this man’s testimony and he shared this scripture in John 15:5. I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me you will bear fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
“I remember driving home and just really asking God, ‘What does that mean to remain in you? What does that mean to abide in you?’ I had this realization that I was like the withered branch that had been disconnected from the vine. That’s when I really just decided to surrender myself to Jesus and made a decision to live for him, no matter what it took, no matter what I had to give up because my way wasn’t working,” she says.
“I just felt like my whole life I was trying to make people love me and trying to prove myself worthy of love. Then, here’s God who I don’t have to make Him love me. I don’t have to prove my worthiness and you know, convince Him. He just loves me as is.”
Harmony finally left her boyfriend.
“It was a yoke being lifted from around my neck. I was even surprised how strong I was and how ready I was and how little I needed Him anymore. Because all those places, all those voids inside of me that I was trying to fill with him and with his approval, God had filled,” she says.
Harmony said good-bye to “Monique” and left the strip scene.
“I remember having this total fig leaf experience where I felt like I was naked for the first time,” she recalls. “For the first time in three years, I wanted to cover myself because I started realizing who I was and who God created me to be and that wasn’t it. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I just remember saying to God, ‘How am I going to do this? I have bills to pay.’ And I remember I just felt Him speak to my heart… ‘I’m going to take care of you. I’ve never let you down and I’m not going to let you down this time.’”
Harmony graduated magna cum laude from UCLA and met Jon, her husband. She has a family now, and works with women in the sex industry through an organization she started called Treasures.
“God doesn’t waste a hurt. He’ll use everything that you’ve ever been through, and He’ll use it for good. His word promises that for us. I know that He’s done it for me, and He’ll do it for other people,” she says. “When I think about everything I’ve ever done and everything that God has ever forgiven me for, it’s mind blowing. His grace is truly sufficient.”
That grace helped Harmony forgive a list of people who hurt her in her past.
“I realized that I was in bondage by not forgiving them. And I didn’t realize that I wasn’t free until I forgave them,” Harmony says. “When I think of the women that are still living in situations that I came from and I remember how trapped I felt, how alone and how desperate I felt, I have to do something to reach them and tell them that there’s hope, that there’s a God who loves them beyond measure.”
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