Dec 2018

Book Review!

Each quarter for the last several years, TAT’s deputy director Kylla Lanier reads and reviews books on human trafficking that TAT feels will be helpful to people interested in learning more on the subject. This quarter, our TAT Book Review is for Scars and Stilettos

Book Review for Scars and Stilettos
By: Harmony Dust

Much has been said about the legal sex industry in the United States. On the one
hand, you have those who say that everything should be legal, including prostitution,
and who use pornography and strip clubs as examples of above-the-board, victimless
places of work for (mostly) women who are paying their way through school, supporting
families or who just like sex. On the other hand, you have those that see the sex
industry as exploitative and abusive, and filled with (mostly) women who have suffered
sexual trauma and abuse earlier in their lives. The case has been made that pornography
and strip clubs are directly linked to sex trafficking … either that they prime the pump
for buyers of commercial sex or that victims of trafficking are forced to strip and/or are
used in porn. Some reject those suppositions outright and say it is just innocent fun.

In the midst of these larger issues and arguments, we tend to lose the voice of
the woman herself … the woman in the strip club, dancing for customers, picking up the
money at the end of her dance. We see her as either a seductress or a victim …
someone using others or someone being used. But what does she think?

Harmony Dust was a 19-year-old college student living with her domineering
boyfriend in California. She had suffered an incredible amount of sexual abuse as a child
that contributed to her low self-esteem and over-reliance on her beauty. Her boyfriend
ran up debt, expecting her to pay, and as one of the only stabilizing forces in her life, she
did what she could to keep him. He often told her he could sell her and make a ton of
money. He then told her she was nothing, unattractive, unworthy and that no one
wanted her. He would manipulate her by giving her affection and then withdrawing it
when he wanted some money or her complete submission to him. And so empty and
desperate to keep the one person in her life she thought could love her, she turned to
stripping in order to bring home the money he insisted upon having.

In Scars and Stilettos, you get a very real and unapologetic look at Harmony’s
story. She does not pity herself. She does not sugarcoat what she was thinking or
decisions she made. She tells her story plainly, including the revulsion, disgust and fear
she had when she first began stripping. She also shares the lust for money that she
experienced … the endless cycle of dancing more to make more, to give it to her
boyfriend so he would stay with her, to dancing more, and on and on. She talks about
the other person she had to become each night as she worked in the club … having to
hide her true feelings, personality and identity. She describes how she shrunk and
continued to break into tiny pieces as Monique, her stripping identity, took over more of
her life. She shares snapshots of her fellow dancers … the hopelessness, addiction and
sadness they experienced as months turned into years at the strip club. She witnessed
trafficking of her friends, pimps trying to lure her into their snares, and so many vile
things. She felt trapped, and the words of her boyfriend that no one would want her and
that she was worthless spoke to her heart and took root.

It was at a ballet class she took for fun where her life began to change. She met a
friend who accepted her at face value, took her to church and helped her see herself as
she truly is — a precious, beautiful child of God. When Harmony accepts this new truth into her life, you are privileged to be a part of her journey out of the club, away from
her boyfriend and into a new career and ultimately a life’s mission. That mission is now
called Treasures, an organization that helps women in the sex industry recognize their
true value and worth as individuals.

This book may not answer the questions about the larger arguments related to
the legal sex industry and its relationship with sex trafficking. However, it will give you
insight into the life of Harmony Dust and the bumpy, painful path that led her to the
club. You will be able to see past the seductive Monique to the shattered little girl trying
to feel whole again. And, hopefully, it will make each of us pause and consider the
backstory of those involved in this industry. Treasures and like organizations are
bringing the message of hope to these women. Learn what hope can do by picking up a
copy of Scars and Stilettos today!



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