Harmony Grillo, victim of exploitation turned UCLA honor student, her goal is to help women and girls entrenched in sexual exploitation find freedom.
As a survivor, Harmony is passionate about assisting women in their journeys of healing and transformation. In 2003, she founded Treasures, a faith-based outreach and support group to women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking.
Armed with personal experience, a Master’s Degree in Social Work and evidence-based theories, Harmony sheds light on the impact of a pornified culture and the lives of women trapped within it. She has received Congressional recognition for her work and has had the opportunity to train LAPD, LVPD, Department of Justice, and the FBI in best practices for working with victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Her memoir, Scars and Stilettos details her harrowing account of moving from victim to survivor to liberator.
I'm Todd Turner, Creative Digital Guide. I come along side Christian Non-Profits and churches and help them tell and fund their God-Sized missions using their digital channels. Listen in to learn how we tell our stories with integrity and ask people to join our kingdom stories.
As a former Executive Vice President for an International organization, I have traveled the world learning and teaching digital strategies in various countries and languages. I have gathered the essentials of Digital Strategies and spend my day helping organizations cut out the fads and trends and learn the simple blocking and tackling of their online fundraising strategies.
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hi I'm Todd Turner and welcome to his story podcast where we will look into the calling events and personalities of those God is using around the globe as his hands and feet to do his good work hello and welcome to his story today's guest is harmony Grillo founder of treasures in Southern California harmony thanks for taking time to be with us today my pleasure thank you for having me okay so normally before we get into the Ministry of a person that we interview we'd like to learn a little bit more about their backstory in your case your backstory ties in dramatically to to your your mission and your life's work so would you just talk a little about how where you grew up what kind of family situation you were in and and and we'll go from there are you ready now just kidding yeah absolutely because the work that I'm doing today is completely based on and birthed out of my story in my history so I was raised in Venice California and in a neighborhood where there was a lot of gang rivalry there was a gang war actually for most of my childhood so it was an unsafe situation there and then also my home was really chaotic my mother struggled unfortunately with a drug addiction she herself had a history of trauma so there was just a lot of brokenness that was repeated and you know just generational cycles that were passed down to me and we one of my one of the things that really kind of shaped everything was for first of all history of abuse and rape that was a big big factor for me you know there was it was years before I could think about that I used to think if I ever said that I had been sexually abused to have to put me in a straitjacket cuz I couldn't even just form the words it was something that was I was so ashamed of because I really blame myself like many victims do for those situations even though as a child one of my abusers wasn't one of my mother's boyfriends and at that point I was 13 I started standing up for myself and I finally ran away from home to get away from the situation and you know unfortunately my mom you know she didn't protect me from what was happening she taught me the thing that she learned when she was a kid which is it's your fault and she said you know if you weren't wearing shorts and tank tops this wouldn't be happening this is how men are harmony you should know how men are and I think she was just trying to teach me the ways of the world but you know obviously that was a very broken message to receive so she finally had him leave and told me I could come home and that things were fine and I'd be safe and I came home and then she ended up believing to follow him to Canada and she left me at 13 with my eight-year-old brother for three months with $20 in the book of food stamps and obviously that did it last long I started stealing from the liquor store to support us and that is when I became involved in a relationship with an older boy my neighbor my neighborhood who when he was around I didn't have to steal food because he'd buy it and when he was around I felt protected because he would tell me anyone got you you know anyone messes me I've got your back and that meant a lot like in a situation where we literally hear get gunshots every single night you know to have someone looking out for you meant a lot and so I became very deeply attached to him and what I now understand is a trauma bond and you know now we we train people and help people understand you know exploitation and and how and why people stay and one of those factors is the trauma bond the kind of thawne that's created between an abuser an exploiter a trafficker and their victim and so certainly that was operating very deeply and intensely in my life and ultimately that relationship you know was abusive and led me to working in strip clubs at the age of 19 under his control with him being my pimp and just wasn't a really awful downward spiral of life yeah so you know I'm gonna ask people to talk about mentors or positive people in their life in their childhood and in your case it sounds like you were surrounded with negativity right so I'm gonna change my question is what what did you gain from that from the childhood like what characteristics or positive traits have you that you carried today were birthed by the type of I said you live because that's a rough rough life well you know actually so first of all I mean I'm a fighter you know I that was the way I responded was to be a fighter I mean maybe it took a while for me to find that fight but I do want to actually speak to the question you were thinking of asking but didn't and it's the the positive influence because obviously my family of origin I didn't have that you know in my immediate family however I really do believe that safe positive relationships are so important in building resilience and children and build and developing the ability to have healthy secure attachment and so even though in a lot of ways I wasn't able to experience that with my parents and with the people amount around me I had a grandmother and I had an aunt and they had a huge role in my life first of all my my grandmother was a Southern Baptist and she was a praying woman so I know she was praying for me but she made an effort to have relationship with me and she made an effort to show me love and she gave me an opportunity to develop secure attachment attachment and also an opportunity to see a different life although it I felt for a very long time I thought her life is so different than mine she could never understand what I'm going through and most of it she didn't know about right most of it was kept hidden from her but eventually when I learned more about her and that she actually grew up in poverty and that she had had you know some experiences that were very traumatic in shaping and that she overcame that when I finally realized that in my 20s I had such um ignited such hope in me that I could have a different life to and that my past didn't have to determine my future so I say all that because um I really you know what what I do today and we're not we're not there yet but in encouraging and training and other people to to do this work and work with victims of exploitation and trafficking but to know that we can have such a positive impact and a positive influence in the lives of other people as through relationship through positive relationships there's this guy I forgot his name but he wrote this book called the boy who has a dog and he is a trauma expert and he is one of the people that's called - when there is just severely traumatic things you know like Columbine er you know what was the one where they with the kool-aid and so anyways he works with trauma victims I'm getting you can google it listen I'm I'm not Google but let google it but one of the things he talks about is sometimes the most therapeutic thing a person can experience is not therapy but therapeutic relationship and so what he found is that the people that did were more resilient and did better at overcoming trauma we're not the ones with the best therapists but the ones with the most positive relationships and so I say that to encourage people who are listening and maybe have people in their life that you're like what can I do their life seems so far gone what difference could I make you can invest in them and you can make a positive impact in their lives well I think we're gonna circle back to that in a minute with your with your work now but that's a great point thank you for stopping there for a minute yeah you mentioned that you're a fighter is that a personality trait that still stays with you today I mean it like I mean I can only imagine living a life where you have to sort of compartmentalize your life but yeah are you are you still a fighter and if so what is that what does that mean just that's my husband I'm not a fighter like that but um yeah you know I do think you know it's nature nurture there I come from a long line that's really strong women so there is just something wired in my personality where I do think that you know I can I'm pretty tenacious you know I and and another thing that contributes towards resilience is optimism and I do have a tendency to be I'm not completely Pollyanna rose-colored glasses but I'm optimistic I can usually find the silver lining I can usually see you know the good in a situation so I think those things help we're gonna talk a little bit about your college later but were you a good student in all this or were you just passing school or have you always been a reader in a learner so for most of my childhood for most of my education I was and I try I even despite everything that was going on you know in my home I kept my grades up and kept the smile and blah blah but then it took a turn in junior high and things really started going downhill and in high school I almost didn't graduate I got called in and they said if you miss one more day at school you're not graduating and in fact you know when I applied to colleges I didn't get into any of them because my grades were so bad but when I was living in a group home when I was a teenager I had my mom unfortunately was also physically abusive at times and so I ended up living in a group home temporarily and the residential counselor in the group home one day he said okay I've got to end our meeting because I'm going I got I have to leave I'm going to go to college and I knew him cuz he was from the same neighborhood as me and the idea that he was in college was just like really kind of preposterous to me cuz I just thought like what why what's the point and and he looked at me he said because I'm gonna be the first black president of the United States it was not Obama that would have been really cool if it was Obama it would be a great story but I was so moved by his just the hope that he had for his life that I made a decision that day I promise you that education was going to be a life raft for me and that I was going to apply myself to school that that's one thing I could do I couldn't control so many of the things that were happening in my life but I could apply myself to school and from that day forward I started working towards getting all A's and in fact I went through all of undergraduate with I think 1b and graduated magna [ __ ] laude from UCLA and then got a master's degree as well because of that one comment Wow and did you go to school in the middle of stripping and all that at the same time I did I did and you know I I'm someone I didn't many people who are experienced exploitation work in the sex industry used drugs and alcohol for me I had such an intense history of trauma I was able to very easily dissociate and just kind of detach from my reality so I didn't use drugs and alcohol but one of the ways that I escaped was through education I just I really when I say I decided that that was my life raft it was how I coped with the chaos in my life was to dedicate myself to education and I studied psychology ironically and I got my masters in Social Welfare but I got my bachelor's in psychology but I think a lot of that was driven by a desire to understand my own craziness and make sense of my life you're making me jump so far ahead of my questioning but I'm gonna use it because it segues nicely so did you see your I mean I feel like there's two things I know a little bit more about your story your a lot of women feel trapped into their situation at the same time you're pursuing education in your mind did you think as soon as I get this degree in get a real job I'm out of here or were you just trying to get educated and you didn't know there was a way out is that a fair question I did yeah yeah I did hope that education would give me a way out of the commercial sex industry I didn't understand at the time and this is this is the thing with the kind of manipulative tactics that exploiters use I didn't understand that my boyfriend was my pimp I didn't see that I was being exploited because he you know sold me the lie that this is temporary you know at the end of this it's gonna be you and me we just have to do this for a little while and it was it was supposedly a means to an end but they're in now I look back and realize that for him there was never an end you know so okay so sorry for my lack of education so I'm gonna ask some crazy questions because I don't underst I don't understand the difference when we talk about you know sex trafficking I mean in my mind I guess the the naive part is is stripping and stripping I know what prostitution is when we hear the word like sex industry and trafficking and I don't I don't get it so I want to ask them questions what you'd explain it doesn't have to be all of your story you've lived ya know enough to know way a lot more than I do and whether audience does so you know Jerry Falwell the old I think Southern Baptist preacher he had a good line to like you don't have to stick your head in the gutter to know what smells right so we know it smells we know this industry is bad but I don't talk a little bit about it because stripping is not just taking off your clothes getting the car and going back home it's a lifestyle in an industry that's right then most people know can you just dig into that a little yeah totally so I appreciate you bringing this up because there are some important distinctions to make so you're you hear me use the word exploitation you hear me use the word trafficking we're talking about commercial sex industry so basically exploitation is when someone uses the attractiveness or sexuality of another person for their own personal gain that's exploitation it it only becomes trafficking when according to the federal definition there's force fraud or coercion involved or the person is under 18 so exploitation becomes trafficking when that person is tricked coerced forced through physical violence or emotional manipulation or that person is a minor then it's trafficking right now where things get a little bit dicey and where people maybe have some different perspectives is I am of the mindset that the commercial sex industry is inherently exploitative for a few reasons one we if you look at all the body of research around the women who end up in the sex industry it's the most vulnerable in our society that are the most susceptible right so it's it's vulnerable people that are ending up more often not in the commercial sex industry are there exceptions to that absolutely research shows 89 percent want to leave but don't see any other options so there's an 11 percent who say I want to be here great but there's 89 who say I don't have any other options right and then when you look at the way the commercial sex industry is set up in different ways you know in the different areas it fits the definition of exploitation because someone else is profiting off of the sexuality or attractiveness of another person then when a woman works in a strip club you know depending on how the strip club is set up she pays a house feat of work that night right if she doesn't make enough money she can walk away owing the house money and not making any money even if she works right or you know you have to cash out and tip a percentage to the managers the door guys the bouncers the bartenders the cocktail waitresses right so all of these other people are profiting off of your sexuality and that in that case so in that way I'm of the mindset you know that it's inherently exploitative but at the end of the day those are the that's a distinction exploitation versus trafficking and that and the thing is is sometimes it's not always so cut you know black and white in the course of a person's story like so for example this is a quick example there's a woman and then often you see the history of trauma an abuse very common for those of us that have experienced this right so woman comes to us history of trauma and abuse she's working she had been forced into prostitution by a pimp and then another guy comes to her and says you don't have to work in prostitution you can work in strip clubs make plenty of money I'll help you escape him and you know you only have to pay me 20 percent as a manager right so he's he's using some coercive tactics right but he's doing more exploitation versus trafficking although it could be argued that even that's trafficking right eventually she finally gets the courage to leave him and she you know ditches him and then is working in strip clubs on her own of her own choice right so and when she tries to leave she can't find another job so then the question becomes what's choice without options so here's a person who was initially trafficked then she was exploited and then she was in a situation where she would say she's there by choice but you look at her history and you look at you know what she's faced with what's choice without options right okay before oh you don't know how much I want to go down that line but I'm gonna hold off I wanna go I don't think we can get to the problem and how you're helping it without knowing your story of how you got out okay what how did you get our link okay what is that normally look like is your story special or it's their you know talk about the industry starting about your story and then you can bleed that into other people's story and what are those statistics of getting out and what does that normally look like right yeah I just first want to say that my story is not special or unique it's not even particularly when you hear stories it's not even particularly I don't want to compare but like extreme right like there are people with way more extreme stories and than mine and at the end of the day God is not a respecter of persons and what he did in my life he can and will do in the lives of other people so I just want to say that I am NOT special in that sense I'm special in the way that we're all special you know but I'm not special so for me my journey out really began with a relationship I met a girl whose friendship changed my life she loved me unconditionally and she showed me the unconditional love of God she did not our friendship was not contingent on me going to church with her she didn't bite me but when I didn't want to go because that's the last place I wanted to be I thought if there is a God then I don't think he likes people like me and I don't know if I like him and so but she didn't let that stop her she'd take me to frozen yogurt would spend time together and she showed genuine care and love for me as a person and I never felt like a ministry project that would have so turned me off I would have but I would have run the other way if I sensed that if I smelled that people can sense it when you think they're a project rather than a person they can tell and so but she loved me unconditionally I finally took her up on her offer to go to church and I what I experienced was this sense that I am home and I I wanted to keep coming back but my life was still my life it didn't change overnight and the gift that she gave me is space to work that out she never tried to be the Holy Spirit she never said now that you're Church get off the pole break up with the boyfriend put on some clothes stop cussing right like give me the rules right mm-hm she really loved me and gave space for the holy spirit to speak to me and do a work in my heart that ultimately led to change in my life and that's really the model for the way we do care at treasures today and I think a lot of times what the church tries to do is say if you if you behave and believe then you can belong right if you behave and you believe then you can belong then we'll accept you that never would have worked for me I wouldn't be sitting here today if that was how she tried to reach me right but what she did and what I think is way more powerful is if we are our actions or behavior our communication demonstrates you belong you belong and it's from that place of belonging that then will be inspired to believe and from that place of belonging that maybe will consider some different behaviors right but it's from knowing that we belong there great I love how the Bible you know works and it's timeless it's the same idea of the Pharisee saying behavior and Jesus going to eat with the sinners and love it right right you belong right exactly each sort of knows what he's talking about right yeah okay so thank oh you're out and I don't know whether we're talking years or decades here but at some point you wrote a book and at some point you decided to invest into a ministry to help other people so talk about that journey and how long did that take from leaving to helping yeah so I remember um I've always had a heart to do something meaningful or help other people but my life was just too much of a wreck to actually do that but I do remember actually one night in sitting in the strip club and I looked over at this woman and I said I think I'm gonna write a book about this one day and she was like what and I was like yeah I think I think I'm gonna write about this and I was in the midst of it but I just had that that sense and then when I left I really had this strong sense that the choices I made mattered and that I was going to have to give an account for them that I was going to have to share my process to help other people one day so it gave me this increased level of accountability that what I'm doing today is going to matter not just in my own life and for those outcomes but for other people and that's certainly the case and what is kind of unique about my story is I was not out that long and hadn't been in recovery that long before I started treasures which I mean it's by the grace of God we're still here so I left the industry and I mean I started treasures in 2003 and I left the industry in 99 I think maybe 98 so not that long especially with the kind of trauma that I had been through but I am a tenacious person and when I committed myself to healing and recovery I committed myself to healing and recovery very fully listen I was still a hot mess calm like I look back and I'm like I had no business deciding to start a ministry what would I think helping others right but God's grace is sufficient and and really it was it was birthed out of me there was no one doing anything like this 20 years ago and and I found myself sitting across the street from the club where I used to work and I knew that I needed to do something to reach the woman still working inside and the vision of treasures was birthed at night and we started out with just strip club outreach now we do outreach to women in online forums who are being exploited women in porn through HIV testing sites and then also girls and juvenile detention centers so we expanded outreach since the beginning and then just once we started reaching all right we have to do something to care for them so I developed a mentoring program and then down the line we developed support groups and now we do both of those things to this day and then again birthed out of need we had people there was a situation where my story was featured in Glamour magazine and our phone lines crashed our website crashed our everything crashed because of all of these people all these women from all over the world not for help looking for support and we were doing our best to meet those needs but we also recognize that this work is best done locally by people who can you know have relationships so that's why we started training people to replicate this model of outreach in their cities so that when someone contacts us you know from another city hopefully we have something pretty relatively nearby that can support them and we've had the opportunity to train in about 120 cities now all over the world and throwers are all of it was really birthed out of need well I what I hear here is that you knew you you were in the middle of the problem you look back and you want to help people out of it but over the course of the last when we had 15 17 years now you've matured how you attack this because you've learned a lot over time oh yeah and I'm still growing I'm still learning yeah absolutely I mean I'd say that's the other thing that has been a benefit to me is I have a hunger for growth and learning I think that's that's really been helpful and then similarly with my my memoir scars and stilettos it took me like seven years to write it because I was not a good writer I had to learn how to write I had a public I got a publishing deal right off the bat and they gave me the advance and then when I turned in the manuscript they were like no and I was devastated and I actually had to go and take writing classes with professional writers and learn how to write and then everybody's boring a writer by the way right but it was it was so worth it so the book came after ya to that so I started trousers in 2003 and then I released scars and stilettos the first edition in 2009 and we're getting ready to release the audio version I'm so excited that's great okay so I'm gonna backtrack just a little bit so explain I know there's nothing typical right I mean but I guess there's there's averages how long is somebody in the sex industry and how do they normally get out is it normally bad news of how they get out and in their 20s like are you just going in and whoever's in the in the building is who you're ministering to or you sort of calculated winds your time to hit them and what was their road if you don't save them yeah from from the industry like what happens to them yeah so obviously it's it varies hugely from person to person but when we did a survey and we said we have about maybe 1500 2000 women that that we have their contact information that have reached out to us over the years so we did a survey of them to find out some of the answers to the things you're talking about one of the things that we found is about 90% of them entered the commercial sex industry before the age of 24 many of them as teenagers and so what's interesting about that is when you think about brain development and when you think about our prefrontal cortex that doesn't finish developing until the mid-20s which is where decision-making comes from that a lot of times people are making the decision to enter the commercial sex industry well before their brain has finished developing now when you look at a person who has had trauma that affects brain development and that that makes that you know period of even further out right so the frontal cortex is affected by trauma so that that's one thing many of them started very very early and then when it comes to how long they're in it really varies from person to person but I literally have I know firsthand a woman in their 80s I kid you not escorting kid you not obviously that's the extreme end of the spectrum what we see at treasures a lot so you know we work with juvenile detention center as we work with department of probation and the build relationship with a lot of the young women a lot of times it's not until they're in there either late 20s all the way up through the 40s where they start to say oh I actually need some help and I need to make a change here obviously we hope that that happens sooner there's intervention happening so that it does but kind of left to their own devices that's what I'm see happening is it's usually not until late 20s at the earliest 30s and 40s that women start to say oh I feel really stuck and I could use some help here that's what I see so III know a brother he's an article or a video of you talking about people who get out and the cycle of getting back in and I'm assuming money is a huge factor right if you're making really good money and then you go try to get a regular job and you're like I can't even pay my bills but is there something else besides money that draws you back into the lifestyle there are a lot of different factors you know a lot of it comes down to in my opinion identity once a person has made a decision or has been forced into the commercial sex industry there's this sense that now I'm that person that does that and so that when I remember you know during the recession I was leading treasures and I would have the thought you could make a thousand dollars tonight now I would not do that I would not make that choice but that thought is there because once you've done that you know you can do that and when things get scary like right now that's what we're seeing we're in the middle of the coronavirus crisis right so we're seeing people get scared financial future is uncertain and as humans we are we tend to want to go back to what's familiar and do the things that we know we can do to try to control right and so anyways but the other thing too when you talk about going back that's very common and one of the things that we talked about in the trainings we do to train other people to do this work is we talk about the stages of change and there's a model that looks at you know there certain people might be in pre contemplation they're not ready to change at all right other people are in contemplation they're thinking about it they're they're weighing it out they're starting to think about it then some people might start to take action right and then other people are maintenance where they're maintaining the choices and the changes they've made but relapse or recycling going back into the behavior is a normal part of the recovery process so it's it's a it's not uncommon for people to go back but it doesn't mean that they're not still hopefully moving forward towards change toward lasting change sure I've got to ask this question you mentioned it earlier that it was advice from your from your mom and even as a kid but I was think about this today if you're in the sex industry and every man not every but most of the men you talk to or are looking at your beauty or they're there selfishly what you know what can you do for me mentality right there how do you even possible how do you train somebody that not all men are pigs because you know what I mean like no idea yourself or unfortunately yeah they get a lot they get a lot of affirmation that men are pigs even after the sex industry right what right how did how did your heart change and how long does it take and I guess some people never get over that thought right yeah it's definitely a struggle the reason I laughed is because I'm gonna tell you a story this is how I met my husband my my wonderful amazing husband Chris Grillo so I was speaking in our church talking about treasures obviously leading treasures he comes out from up to me afterwards and he was like man I just I have such a heart for what you're doing I would love to get involved somehow and I looked at him I go no and he was like okay and he felt like such an idiot he and I remember that day so clearly it was an it was in 2008 I remember it so clearly because he seemed genuine and I didn't have a paradigm for that that didn't make sense to me and he remembers that to me very clearly because he felt like a just dumb you know it's like what was I thinking I could I could get involved with this but kid you not at that time because I wasn't known as Hartmann and guerrilla leader of treasures right whatever people in the church would come up to me men and say I heard what you do you go to strip clubs I'd love to go with you to strip clubs on a Friday night in the church right so that's not helping that's not helping me develop trust for men but what ended up happening is about six months after that moment that I met who is now my husband a woman who worked with me convinced me let a male that she trusted she vouched for in turn I was like he can come in here when the women are not here he can sweep the floors he can clean the toilets he can take out the trash but he can't do this and this listen this and this and this and she's like okay so he starts coming in and building trust and I hear I see this man I'm like this person he has genuine he genuinely seems to care and he's not creepy and there doesn't seem to be any ulterior motives he convinced me to let him find a couple other men that could help him take out the trash and sweep the floors and my husband was the first to sign up he wasn't my husband then and so he was in my office every week every Thursday just helping with whatever needed to be done and then as they built trust you know we started having them do security on averages do security for support group now they cook a Thanksgiving dinner for the women and cook it from scratch gourmet dinner and serve it to them in suits and you know volunteer at events and there they're now known as men for treasures and they're amazing and it was it wasn't until I don't know six or seven years later that finally my husband and I started dating but from the time we met but I just I still didn't trust men you know and I it's a whole another story but I had a previous marriage where that contributed all sorts of my lack of trust but now I see and believe and know that there are great men out there with just a genuine heart for women and he he he has so much passion for the work that I do and supports it so deeply and he loves and honors me and shows me that with his actions yeah I'm the sube there's a lot of layers to leaving the industry and this that's just one of the dilemmas trusting men again but I'm sure that's not the most important thing as you're trying to pull pull people out of the lifestyle but you know it's high on the list you know because a lot of it really it's until we develop new behaviors and patterns a lot of us end up in dysfunctional relationships and toxic patterns of relating that are just biology right yeah okay so let's talk a little bit about further like so what does your ministry looked like I mean obviously like we said insured it over time but if it could just be bowled down like you literally walk into a a strip club and start talking to people and letting them know you love them and try to build relationships and like what does that look like yep pretty much we we do outreach to all the clubs in LA and we bring gifts to the women and just with our contact information and let them know if when they're ready and need some support we're here for them the message is that you're loved valued and purposed and you know when the managers are like what are you trying to get the women to leave no I've never in 17 years told someone to leave the sex industry I've never had to if the research is true and my experience is that it is 89 percent want to leave right they just don't the other options and the ones who don't I'm not going to convince them right but for the ones who want support then we're here for them and the relationship that we have developed with the clubs is pretty great in most cases like a lot of the managers give the women our contact information and so we've really developed some great rapport with the clubs and then when a woman reaches out to us we just it's from that point just building that trust building rapport building relationship and being there for her and walking alongside her in whatever way she invites us to wow so I'm amazed to hear that they don't try to keep you out so what advantages a couple do don't get me wrong Hubble do ya but a lot of it so here's that here's a reason though it's the here's a mentality that there's nothing inherently this is the mentality there's nothing inherently wrong with the sex industry so if someone needs to use drugs to be here has a pimp it has blah blah blah going on in their lives then that's her that's not the industry that's her and we've a lot of the managers like we feel like therapists we're constantly having to deal with their problems so if they can go talk to someone else that's great and for every let's say someone does leave right let's say and this has happened we we've actually had this one female manager who said to us you know I don't like when you come here because you make the girls think and we don't want them thinking and but let's say someone does leave there's 25 other women auditioning on a Friday night they're willing to pay to be there and there's a line out the door right so they're yeah okay we're not we're not hurting their business this is a sad point so I think this ties into my next question how is the internet changed all this what I mean if there was already strip clubs and there was already people who are coerced or opportunistic to go in that lifestyle now I have the internet I mean i-i've seen documentaries that people just put ads online and there's once again so many emails that flood in and people want to be in the industry whatever that means that's a big term so how this changed the the sex industry in general much less how you're attacking it yeah the Internet has changed everything so in so many ways in so many different facets of this are affected by the internet so first of all the accessibility of porn has led to an incredible increase in corn consumption increase in demand leads to increase in supply leads to increase in exploitation the Internet is absolutely used as a tool for exploitation so there are pimps and traffickers they know that if they call their victim a porn star who's available for escorting they can make more money off of her so what that means is they make porn of the women distribute it online as a way of advertising their victims there are a very high percentage of women in prostitution report being filmed by traffickers John's so a lot of this is happening without them knowing and that footage is distributed right because normally at a strip club what you do behind closed doors you walk out and you can be whoever you want to be but when you have evidence right and it's held over you I can't imagine and a lot of exploiters will use that what like one of the things that they'll do is they'll find a potential victim they'll I mean this is awful but drug them rape them get it on camera and then use that footage as blackmail if you don't do what we tell you we're gonna send this footage to your parents we're gonna put this um you know make this public so there yeah there are a lot of different ways that it's being used same thing with what we're seeing is a big push right now especially with so many people in quarantine a big push for women to go into webcaming because there's a huge demand for that right now as well so the Internet has has really changed everything and then of course the the websites and the forums where women are being exploited online you know we they're posting ads that sort of thing okay so I'm you hit a question I was gonna ask you talk about supply and demand at the end of the day how does society tackle this epidemic I mean do you go for the supply side you go for the demand side you go attack everything at once how do you how do we fight this I mean it has to be all of it right because if the demand is never reduced there as long as there's a demand there's going to be a supply as long as there's a demand there are women who are going to be exploited so you know educating people helping people understand a lot of people are consuming porn thinking this is completely victimless not understanding even for your average person and porn not someone who would identify as a victim of exploitation or trafficking but the kind of coercion that that's happening behind the scenes it's very common for a person to get hired to do a certain thing be told these are the parameters and the parameters are within whatever their boundaries are and then when they show up to the set they're being asked to do something way different that they didn't sign up for that they didn't agree to and then told if you don't do this you're gonna be blackballed if you don't do this we're gonna do this that and the other name-calling you know coercing them into doing these things and that's even in porn that is not under exploitation and you know under trafficking I would say so yeah but as long as there is a demand there's going to be a supply so education is important helping people understand cuz I think a lot of people if they did understand the kind of exploitation that they're participating in would think like there's a fight the new drug is an organization that I love and one of their campaigns is consider before consuming so considering just consider the facts considering the data let alone the negative impact that porn has on relationships and it's crazy because a lot of sex therapists you recommend porn right there's a very famous doctor who I will remain nameless who is very well-respected in the evangelical world who recently on a podcast recommended that couples use porn to enhance their sex life right so it's interesting because I slip in van nuys and I know that was sort of a hot spot in the back then maybe the Internet is changing this as well but I don't think people were famous you may know their name but now I mean there's conferences in Vegas and there's right what's wrong the devil so great at putting lipstick on evil and you look great and so I I think there's not only money but now the girls think that can get famous language from it and that's gotta be super hard to find totally and yeah exactly I mean so when you talk about how do you change this there are you know cultural norms that are playing into this as well as a society we're very comfortable with women being sexualized and objectified that's you know throughout alts forms of media and women and girls are growing up learning that their value is that in their sexuality and that Fame and likes and followers are the most important thing so those social norms and those mindsets are also current contributing so it's a beast right and then see how they'll be able to address demand you have to address the social norms and mindsets but then you also have to help the women who whose lives are being just ravished by this industry and who want help and need support to get out so and but you need all of it so probably running out of time this is so good I could go on for hours but just like you returned to help so the people that you help are they going back and helping as well do you see a path yeah so one of the things that's unique about treasures that I love about treasures as we believe very much in Survivor leadership and my prayer for the beginning was that the women we reached tonight would be the future leaders in this movement and we see that today we are our support group we used to have a therapist like support group and it's a long story but now we have a survivor lead support group and our attendance skyrocketed once we did that and so we have survivor leaders on our care team our outreach team survivor leader is you know that our mentors survivor leaders that are leading support group and many of whom most of whom were initially reached and cared for by treasures and then grew to a place where they wanted to give back so it's that's one of my favorite things so so you're you've tackled and you're tackling Los Angeles and you said that you're sort of replicating this in other parts of the country I'm assuming every mid-sized city to big city needs while there could be every senator every city okay yeah is there something in almost every city now or unfortunately or something in every city so you know I'm an I'm in the San Fernando Valley which is the adult industry capital of the world what one of the things we do is we do online outreach where we post in forums where women are being advertised rightwe one morning at 10:
00 a.m. on a Thursday put up a post 15 minutes later went back to check on it and we couldn't find it because it was buried beneath I think like 67 the other posts within a five-mile radius of women being advertised for sex so we're in the epicenter but I like to go on to these websites when I'm in other places small towns this that in the other and just see what's being posted you know in those places and everywhere you go the commercial sex industry is operating if that city doesn't have strip clubs then guaranteed it has women being advertised online for escorting probably has massage parlors probably has street prostitution it's everywhere right so all right so I'm assuming you're all but because you're studier and clearly you have a great brain and a heart for this but tell me what the future looks like for you guys how are you growing what's next for treasures I mean observing continue doing what you're doing but yeah do you have plans like what if the Lord put a man dollar cheque in front of you for resourcing like what would you do differently or greater what's your plans what's next yeah so we have lots of plans always got more vision and I've got staff to execute the vision but one of the things I'm actually really excited about is you know we're still doing our in-person trainings where people come to Los Angeles and we do hands-on training with them and we love that but for a lot of people that travel all that makes it a little less accessible so we are in the process of digitizing our trainings to make them more accessible to people all over the world so I'm super excited about that we're also creating tracks for people who want to work and care for and reach and care for those that have been in the sex industry and victims of exploitation trafficking but also for churches and faith-based allies training tracks for them as well so we're super excited about that if someone gave me a million dollars tomorrow probably the the biggest need I see and one of the biggest wrestles we have is figuring out some transitional housing because that's a huge need I have a business plan written for it but we're in Los Angeles so the prices are very high here real estates very expensive and so that's just been something that's been in my heart for a long time I have the plans for but it's just a matter of needing lots of miracles yeah we did get into this and I but I was gonna ask that question is some people have home to go back to I mean it may be a tough journey back and a lot of apologies and a lot of broken relationships that have to be mended but some people have no one and what are they supposed to do when they leave and pay bills and write and that's a huge service gap so even if a woman does end up going to let's say a residential program and she gets that support for that period of time in that kind of very highly structured environment what we often see for the population that we serve they don't have homes to go to afterwards there's no transition place for them and so it's a huge service gap and a huge need and you know many of the women that we serve experience homelessness many are homeless right now many are $100 away from being homeless and so that's it's a huge need I have one woman online every week almost she's begging me to open home sorry or you guys or churches I mean wouldn't it be great if churches could somehow have ministries because every one of our pounds there's somebody who needs a place to rest their head at night and that beloved on right opportunity to change their life right right that's actually how the whole trip one of the reasons the training started there was a woman who reached out to us she was from a small town I encouraged her to find community in the local church she went she went to the altar asked for prayer it was the pastor's wife and she said I'm really uncomfortable I wish you weren't telling me this right now and she was telling her I was traffic I'm stuck in prostitution I'm a single mom I don't know how to get out the next day her car was vandalized with just profanity calling her name's and then the next week she went back to church thinking maybe it was a coincidence and she got there and she went to check her child into the children's ministry and they said I'm sorry you and your child are not welcome here and I was devastated and angry and I mean all the feelings but at the end of the day I'm like that I I'm heartbroken that the church did not rise to the occasion and be a safe place for a woman to experience healing and transformation but it also showed me the the importance of equipping the church to move beyond good intentions to actually reach and care for people in a way that's effective and that's that's why we do the trainings we do well you have a you used the word be familiar that's a great word you're fighting a beast with a lot of arms and muscle and tentacles and it's it's it's it's unfortunately it's never-ending you'll do this till Gabriel blows his horn right I want to solve it but we can change people's lives with it and draw them to Christ I mean I like you said I think you the end of the day your goal really is to pull them out of the industry love know they're loved somewhere along here is a faith journey but it's not required you're not like you right I want you to repeat what you said you're not asking them to change their behavior then get in the club it's just your your later know they're loved and it's somewhere along the way there's a Gospel message even if it's not hey memorize this verse it's somebody loves you I love you because I'm loved right I mean I'm the biggest fan of wherever you go preach the gospel and use words when necessary and so we're not about behave believe and then you belong our messages you belong well I love it I love what you do I thank you I could do this all day but we better but I'm gonna put a link to your website podcast and let people know that there's a lot you have a you have a lot of videos and you know statistics to let people know that this is not as simple as we said earlier of just stripping industry where you take your clothes off put them back on and leave and then you just live life it's a lot more dirty and complex than I think a lot of people imagine very complex so thanks for everything that you do yeah my pleasure thanks for having me appreciate it word you mind if I pray for you no I love it how many Father Lord you are an awesome God Lord during these current times that were in importance grateful to know that you and only you are in control of all things and a lost and dark world Lord we we thank you for being truth and light more than for your redemptive power and your desire to leave the ninety-nine Lord and go for the one about you I think what we people you put in our lives and that we get to meet in order today we look at our many Lord of how you've given her a passion to walk into darkness and take young broken women back into the light lord thank you for giving her the strength and desire and the capacity and capability in order to do this tough work as she said tackling a beast lord thank you for walking with her during this this ministry can that's what it is Lord and as she continued blessing harmony in her ministry and then we ask you to grow this endeavor and expose the epidemic to the we could make a difference in helping her fight this dark and ugly world show yourself modely that your truth will be exposed and to people that are just hurting Lord a day in and day out Lord I play for provisions for treasures give them the resources they need to continue their work and expand their work Lord we love you and we thank you for first loving us and it's in your son's precious name we pray amen amen human thank you so much how many great to meet you thanks for taking time and being with us today my pleasure thanks for having me [Music]