Harmony (Dust) Grillo: Survivor, Founder, & Author
Trigger Warning: This episode contains discussions of child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Listener discretion is advised.
This week’s interview is with exploitation and trafficking survivor turned UCLA honor student, Harmony (Dust) Grillo. Today, Harmony is the founder of Treasures, an outreach and support group to help women and girls who are entrenched in sexual exploitation find freedom.
Harmony speaks with podcast host, Garrett Jonsson, drawing from her own personal experience of being abandoned at a young age and lured into the commercial sex industry from her “Romeo pimp.” Armed with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, Harmony sheds light on the impact of a pornified culture and the lives of women trapped within it. Her memoir, Scars and Stilettos, details her harrowing account of moving from victim to survivor to liberator, and can be found at iamatreasure.com.
FROM THIS EPISODE
- Treasures Website
- Harmony’s Website
- Check out @harmonygrillo and @treasuresLA on Instagram
- Harmony’s Book Scars & Stilettos
- Article: If You’re In The Sex Industry And You’re Thinking Of Leaving, Here’s What You Can Do
- Article: The Day I Realized that Porn Is Tied To Sex Trafficking Was The Day I Stopped Watching
- Consider Before Consuming Video
- Truth About Porn
- Brain, Heart, World Docuseries
- Get The Facts
Garrett: What’s up people? I’m Garrett Jonsson and you’re listening to Consider Before Consuming a podcast by Fight the New Drug. Before we jump into this conversation, we want to let you know that during this conversation we discuss childhood sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Listener discretion is advised.
Today’s conversation is with Harmony (Dust) Grillo. She was a victim of childhood sexual abuse at a very young age and unfortunately the sexual exploitation didn’t stop there. Harmony’s experiences eyeopening and inspiring despite the years of sexual exploitation. She went on to become an honor student at UCLA. She earned a Master’s Degree in social work and as you’ll hear in this conversation she’s passionate about assisting other women and girls in their journeys of healing and transformation. In 2003 she founded Treasures which does outreach and support to victims of sexual exploitation.
Meeting harmony was so cool. After meeting her in person, I was able to read her memoir, Scars and Stilettos, which is a very insightful read. With all that being said, we hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
Well, we are sitting here with a Harmony (Dust) Grillo and we are currently in DC at a conference, a coalition, and it’s The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation. And we’re sitting down with Harmony because she was just on a panel of four women just talking about their experience. And so we were fortunate enough to connect with you Harmony. So thanks for being here.
Harmony: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Garrett: It’s our pleasure. We, uh, as you were kind of talking on the, the panel, our team was just like, “Wow, we need to talk to her. She has an amazing experience and has amazing insight.” and um, and so it’s really our pleasure. We appreciate you being here with us today. As you were speaking up there on the panel, I took a lot of notes and I was just like, “Oh my goodness, I want to talk to her about this and this and this.”
Garrett: Um, just to name a couple of those things that kind of stood out to me was that you have a personal account, right? A personal experience with this, with this topic. And then it seems like you have great insight on objectification, um, exposure to pornography at a young age. Um,…
Harmony: We can cover all of it.
Garrett: Yeah. There’s just so many things.
Harmony: Every facet, it’s so connected.
Garrett: Yeah, you’re totally right. Um, one thing that I wanted to start off with was something that you just mentioned as you walked in and you’re like, “I have to make sure that I mentioned this because I didn’t mention it in a very important spot.” [laughter] And so tell us a little bit about that. What, what do you have to mention just to make sure we get off in the right foot.
Harmony: I often forget to mention my memoir, Scars and Stilettos. I guess we’ll just start that there. Yeah. So I just released the second edition of Scars and Stilettos.
Garrett: And what is Scars and Stilettos?
Harmony: It’s my memoir.
Harmony: And I really wanted to write my story in a way that people could just hear the experience of what I went through without being preached at, without being, you know, I dunno. It’s just, it’s my experience. And so, um, my claim to fame with this book is that kids in juvenile detention centers steal it from the library.
Garrett: Aye, there we go!
Harmony: And so I felt really good about that. [laughter]
Garrett: That’s, that’s your target audience. I mean that they need it. So that’s really cool.
Harmony: Yeah, but really it’s my story of overcoming sexual exploitation, working in strip clubs under the control of a pimp. But it’s also a story of overcoming domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, um, really developing and discovering and new and true identity and discovering who I was outside of my sexuality. And so I think, um, hopefully my hope is that it would resonate with a lot of people who have histories of sexual trauma and, um, at the end of the day to be encouraged that there is hope and they can overcome.
Garrett: We love, we love hope we have to dive into the kind of the depressing side, right?
Garrett: This is a, it can be a depressing topic. So we love the hope.
Garrett: Because sometimes we get so deep into this depression of like, man, this is a heavy topic.
Garrett: So we love when people come to the table with some hope. So we’re gonna love talking to you. Um, I know some of our listeners are going to be hitting the back button like :15 seconds back or :30 seconds back to get the name of your book again. So let’s just say it one more time.
Harmony: It’s called Scars and Stilettos and it’s available on our website iamatreasure.com, and also, um, on Amazon, but it’s called Scars and Stilettos.
Garrett: Um, I am a treasure. What is that exactly? Is that an organization that you run?
Harmony: Yeah. So I’m the Founder and Executive Director of Treasures and we’re an outreach and support group to women in the commercial sex industry and victims of exploitation and trafficking. I started Treasures, um, 16 years ago in 2003 and just really wanted my pain and history to be used for purpose and knew that there were other women that I wanted to reach. So we reach women in all areas of the commercial sex industry. We go into strip clubs, we reach women in porn, um, women in escorting and prostitution through online forums. And then we also work in juvenile detention centers.
Harmony: And we provide them with mentoring support groups. And honestly, some of the most therapeutic things that we do are not even therapy, but Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays and baby showers and hiking and really develop community and family. For many of the women, they don’t have that.
Garrett: Um, know I kinda got the chills as you were talking about, um, those holiday activities…
Garrett: …and how you’re kind of, it’s not therapy, it’s not a therapy session, but it’s a holiday celebration…
Harmony: And it’s therapeutic.
Garrett: … it’s therapeutic.
Harmony: Because so much of the brokenness begins in our family of origin. So much of the healing is going to happen as we recreate family. I remember a couple of years ago when I was walking, one of the women down to her car, she was someone who was a trafficking victim, grew up in foster care. And as I was walking her down, she says, “Harmony, thank you so much. I’ve never done that.” And I said, “You’ve never done what?” she said. “I’ve never opened a present by a Christmas tree.” And you know, at that point was around 20 years old and she had never had that experience. So to even something as simple as that, you know, to create experiences as simple as that and really giving the women sometimes, um, opportunities to experience a childhood that they never had through activities like that.
Garrett: That’s so important. And some of our listeners won’t have families, you know, and so I think I wanted to ask you the question, it’s not necessarily they don’t need to have a family and need to find connection somehow. Right?
Harmony: Exactly. So I’m, when I say a family, I’m using that term very broadly because for me, I had to create a family. I, you know, I created a community of people that have become family to me and it’s, um, it’s important. In fact, one of my favorite, um, stories when it comes to treasures is that one of the women that I’ve had the honor of mentoring, um, for over 10 years now, she went on to now she herself is a survivor leader and she’s mentoring other women. And one of the women that she has mentored, they developed this really special bond and you know, she’s the, the mentee started calling her mom and eventually the relationship evolved to where they actually went forward with an adult adoption. I got to sit in court and watch my mentee legally adopt her adult mentee. And for both of them now they have family that they didn’t have before.
Garrett: Wow. So yeah, the connection is so important.
Garrett: Wow, that’s special. So how is treasures organized?
Harmony: So three areas of focus outreach, which I mentioned care, which is which I also mentioned the support groups, the mentoring and then the community, we call them Connect Events. And then the third area focus is training. So we train other people to develop grassroots outreaches in their cities and we also provide training to people who are already in this field as practitioners. So our next training is actually in October in LA where we have a two day intensive and we go over best practices for outreach, best practices for care, and really give people everything that we’ve learned in 16 years of experience about what actually works. How do you effectively reach and care for someone with a history of sexual exploitation?
Garrett: Okay. That’s a lot of information. Lots of good stuff.
Garrett: Um, one thing that I always try to do, if I’m talking to someone in person, it’s a little bit different in like remote interview over the phone or over online, but in a, an actual like face to face interview is I really tried to be present and so I can’t take notes. It’s very probable that I’m going to have to ask you something again. Right?
Harmony: That’s okay, that’s alright.
Garrett: One of the questions I wanted to start with is how you heard about Fight the New Drug.
Harmony: Oh gosh. It was a long time ago. Probably when you guys first popped up.
Garrett: Do you remember about what year it was?
Harmony: Um, tell me if I’m wrong on dates, but I feel like it was 2011 or 2012.
Garrett: Yeah. So we, we were founded in 2009 so that was pretty close.
Harmony: Yeah, pretty early.
Harmony: Yeah. So someone said, “Oh, you gotta…”, you know what, it was my husband who actually I met because he was volunteering with treasures. So he has a heart for what we do. Um, and so yeah, she, he said “You gotta check out this website.” And so, um, I’ve over the years gone back and referenced and read your articles and I just, I was saying to you earlier before we sat down, I just so appreciate your messaging is so simple. You know, porn kills love. Like there it is. That kind of says everything, not just, um, intimacy in marriage and relationships in the way it really disrupts that and severs connection, but also our ability to love one another as humanity because when we’re objectifying and sexualized women, sexualizing women, um, we’re not loving them. Right?
Garrett: Yeah. The objectification is not love. Um, one thing you mentioned in your panel that I was like, wow, that is not okay and I’m so glad you shared your experience was your exposure to pornography.
Garrett: Can you talk to when you were exposed and kind of how that happened?
Harmony: Yeah, I was exposed to pornography for the first time at the age of three by a male relative. And, um, it was intentional and you know, it’s, at the time I didn’t really understand what I was looking at, but those images were really burned into my mind. Um, and then also part of my story is a history of sexual abuse at the hands of multiple people, both men and women and rape. So it’s hard to know which thing contributed how much. But essentially what ended up happening is I developed a sense of, um, value and worth that was built around sexuality and was really comfortable with being sexualized and objectified, which, um, those are job requirements for the commercial sex industry. And so when I first walked into a strip club for the first night, you know, I was working under the control of a pimp, my exploiter who I thought was my “boyfriend.”
And, um, but that environment was completely foreign to me. However, there was something very familiar about it because my history of abuse and exposure to pornography had made me feel very comfortable with being sexualized and objectified as a woman. So there was something very familiar about it. Um, and I just slipped right into what was familiar to me. And it took a while for me to even realize that what I was experiencing on a nightly basis was essentially being revictimized.
Garrett: So the objectification being ingrained in your mind from the age of three, it’s almost like this long grooming process.
Harmony: It is. It’s, it, it’s, when my exploiter began grooming me, a lot of his work had already been done. The groundwork had been laid by my experience of sexual abuse. Um, just the, you know, the dissociation that I already was able to, you know, I was able to dissociate. I was able to disconnect. That’s very important when you’re working in the commercial sex industry. It’s one of the reasons there’s such high rates of substance abuse.
Garrett: What do you mean by disconnect? mentally?
Harmony: So dissociation is one of our, um, one of the coping mechanisms that humans use in order to deal with trauma, especially when the trauma starts in early childhood. And when we’re in these situations where we’re powerless to control what’s happening to us, one of the ways that our bodies and brains help us cope is to disconnect from that experience. And it in those moments, it helps us survive. It helps us to not fall apart mentally. Right? But you know, it’s a coping mechanism that helps us survive. That becomes maladaptive if we continue on. So dissociation isn’t very helpful. And though even people who haven’t been in the commercial sex industry who have a history of sexual abuse, my idea might relate to this, but dissociation isn’t very helpful when you’re trying to build intimacy in a real, in a marriage.
Because if your default setting is in a sexually intimate situation, disconnect, check out, don’t be present. That’s not going to help.
Garrett: That’s not connection.
Harmony: That’s not connection. Right?
Garrett: It’s isolation.
Harmony: But it is essential for women in the commercial sex industry. One of the ways that dissociation is described is actually creating a separate or false identity, which when you think about those of us that have worked in the commercial sex industry and the various forms, one of the first things we do is pick a name and began creating this whole separate identity that’s different from who we are. And again, that’s one of the ways that we fragment ourselves so that we can survive the trauma that we experience in the sex industry.
Garrett: So the name takes on an identity.
Harmony: Exactly. I remember the first night out, you know, worked at the club, the DJ, he was writing the names of all the women on the white board and he said, “What’s your name?”
And I said, “Harmony.” And he wrote it and I couldn’t stand to see my name on that board. And so I said, “Take it down. I’ll be Monique.” And I began creating this alter identity. That was Monique. So it was Monique that was going into the clubs and doing those things, not Harmony. I had to separate it from myself in order to really survive it. And that’s what many of us do. And I mean women in prostitution, women in porn, most of us do this. We choose a different name. That’s our stage name or our name that we work by. But that that’s, it’s an extension of dissociation. And it’s a way that we fragment ourselves and compartmentalize what we’re doing so that we can survive it. And so, you know, just the whole myth that porn is empowering to women, that the commercial sex industry, that stripping is empowering to women.
If it were, we wouldn’t have to create separate identities to work in those spaces. If it were, we wouldn’t see women in the commercial sex industry experiencing rates of post traumatic stress disorder that are equivalent to combat war veterans. We wouldn’t see 89% wanting to leave, but not seeing any other options for survival. And so even when you’re talking about women who have chosen to work in the industry, we’re not talking about victims of trafficking and exploitation, which that was part of my story and that certainly overlaps. But even those who say they chose to be there, 89% want to leave but don’t see any other options. So then that begs the question, what is choice without options? Right.
Garrett: That’s a very good point. Um, can you talk a little bit more to the process and just so you know, if there’s a question you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to answer that.” Just tell me.
Garrett: Um, can you talk a little bit more to the process from age three to when was your first time stepping into a strip club?
Harmony: My first night stepping into a strip club was 19. And, um, porn was actually now in retrospect, you know, I see things more clearly. Porn was used by my exploiter in grooming. Um, he brought porn into our relationship, into our household and he would, um, constantly say things like “If I were a woman I would use my body to make money.” Um, and just painting this picture of that being empowerment, that being powerful, that being a way, you know, basically the commodification of sexuality. So that was part of the grooming process even for me. Um, was that, but that relationship, um, I don’t, I don’t even know if he needed foreign he to do that. You know, he really had such control over my life by that time. My, the history with him was that I knew him since I was 11 years old. So we had a very long history. When I was 13, one of my abusers was my mother’s boyfriend. And I finally started standing up for myself and ran away from home.
Garrett: At what age?
Harmony: At 13 and so my mom called and said, “He’s gone, you can come home.” But she ended up leaving with him and followed him to Canada. And so she left me at the age of 13 with my eight year old brother with, um, for three months with $20 and a book of food stamps. So obviously that didn’t last very long. I started stealing to support my brother and I, and it was that summer that became really more deeply involved with this point in the neighborhood because when he came around, he would buy us food and I wouldn’t have to risk getting arrested for stealing. And when he came around, you know, I lived in a neighborhood where there was a gang war between the two gangs and he would tell me, “I’ve got your back, we’ll take care of you.” And that meant something to me.
Garrett: That felt like connection.
Harmony: I felt like connection, that that was what I always wanted from a man, was to feel protected and provided for. And so I developed a very, very deep attachment to him. Now I understand it was a trauma bond. Um, but essentially I came to believe that my survival depended on him. So by the time I was 19, I had given up all of my autonomy and all control over my life to him really essentially. But he still used porn in the process.
Garrett: A lot of people, a lot of our listeners might think that when it comes to a pimp cause you use that term, right?
Garrett: They think of someone that is abusive mentally, physically, emotionally.
Garrett: They think of someone maybe that they don’t necessarily know and didn’t grow up with. In your case, you grew up with him since you were13?
Harmony: Yes, even younger. 11 so those are really, really good and important points you bring up. The truth is is very often girls are trafficked by people they know, including their family. Many of the women that Treasures serves have been trafficked by their own parents. Um, and then the other thing is is there are a few different forms of pimping. There is what we have come to call gorilla pimping, which is what you see portrayed often. The media with the brute force and violence, the, you know, the physical aggression, aggression and the relationship that I was in did become physically and emotionally abusive. So that was a piece of our relationship as well.
However, Romeo pimping is a form of manipulation and coercion where they exploit our poses as a boyfriend or a love interest. And this unfortunately is super effective, especially when it comes to young vulnerable girls. 70% of trafficking victims are from the foster care system. So when you have a population of young, vulnerable people who are just so hungry for connection, for love, for all of that, they become very susceptible to this particular form of, of pimping and exploitation. Um, so he, my exploiter was more of a Romeo pimp, but then you also have what they call a CEO pimp, which is someone who uses career promise to manipulate women. You see that a lot in the porn industry because pimps will pose as talent managers, talent, um, agents and you know, use prey on the desire to have a career in the entertainment industry in order to manipulate and force women into the various forms of the commercial sex industry, including porn.
Garrett: So you mentioned three different types of pimps. Yes. Romeo, gorilla and CEO.
Harmony: Yeah. CEO was coined by my friend Rachel Thomas and that was her experience. Yes.
Garrett: Those all three of those make a lot of sense.
Garrett: Did you, in your experience with the pimp that you encountered in and were with for awhile, what did you experience all three of those? A little bit of all three,
Harmony: you know, with, um, so with him he was physically abusive and emotionally abusive, but I feel like the exploitation, really the, the, the piece that he used was my desire for love. So he really used Romeo pension. However, when I was around 14 years old, um, there was a man who came to me and he said he was a photographer and he worked with all these huge agencies in New York and he worked, you know, for all these huge magazines and basically took me out into the desert and did a nude photo shoot with me. And at the time, you know, I really thought that this was, and he explained to me that by that “This is how you break into the modeling industry and it’s very important to be able to do nude photos because as a female model you have to be comfortable with your sexuality.” And there was just all this grooming and brainwashing going on. Um, and you know, the idea was that he was going to take these photos and he was going to help me break into the modeling business. Since that point, I’ve been contacted by a parent whose child was also, um, he did the same thing to them and I’m sure those were not isolated incidents. And I’m like, “Oh, I was a child that, who knows where those images are.” So point being that would be an exploiter who is using more of the CEO tactics.
Garrett: That’d be, it’s almost like CEO grooming.
Garrett: And one thing I want to clarify for some of our listeners, and I think it’s good to talk about with you is the word coercion and the definition of coercion is to persuade using threat or force. And so that word threat, it’s like this person comes to you and says, “Hey, if you want to be in the industry a model, then you have to do nudes. If you don’t, then you can consider yourself done.”
Harmony: When you talk about trafficking and the term, what the three can you know, uh, factors you’re looking for are force, fraud and coercion. So that’s a scenario where you see both fraud and coercion happening.
Garrett: I actually wanted to talk a little bit about the trafficking, cause you’ve mentioned that word trafficking several times and Treasures works with trafficking victims. Correct?
Harmony: Not only we work with women in strip clubs poor and whether or not they were a victim identify as victims of trafficking or not. About 30% of the women that we serve identify as victims of trafficking and about 68% identify as victims of sexual exploitation. And then the remainder would say, “I chose this, but I still need help.”
Garrett: So can you explain and talk to a little bit the, the term or that you’re using is they “identify as a trafficking victim.”
Garrett: So that insinuates that some people are trafficking victims, but they don’t identify as attractive victim?
Harmony: Right. So in the survey that I’m referring to where I pull, I’m pulling those percentages there, let’s just go with trafficking. So 31% said “Yes, I identify as a trafficking victim.” The remainder who said either “No. I was not a trafficking victim” or “I’m not sure.” in their comments, many of them listed situations where they were, they began stripping at 14 or they started working in prostitution at 13 well, we know by federal definition, anyone who’s a minor involved in the commercial sex industry that’s trafficking. Or they would say, you know, “I don’t identify as a victim of trafficking. I had a pimp. He wouldn’t let me leave. But I still kind of felt like I chose it.”
Garrett: They’re still in the healing process, the vision there, they’re not able to see exactly what happened, but their, their wording explains that, yeah, they are victims of sex trafficking.
Harmony: Yeah. Yeah.
Garrett: Okay. And you mentioned in your case, do you feel like you were trafficked?
Harmony: I did not see myself as a victim at all. I, um, and I think it’s really difficult for a lot of us, um, to come to terms with and recognize our victimization. And part of the reason for that is, you know, up to 90% of women in the commercial sex industry, up to 90% have histories of sexual abuse. And so for those of us that have those experiences and we experienced this powerlessness over our body, there’s something that sort of alluring about the commercial sex industry, at least initially, where it gives us this false promise of a false sense of empowerment that you can take your sexuality and use it for your own profit and gain. Like I walked into the strip club and I felt like, Oh, I finally have the upper hand here. I’m calling the shots, I’ve got the money. It didn’t take long for me to begin to recognize that the person with the money has the power and that I was just there to, you know, do what they said. Right? And so, um, and it took a while to, for me to recognize the victimization in terms of my exploiter. Um, and it’s, I think it’s just human nature. Like when you think about victims of childhood sexual abuse, it’s, it’s very common for us to blame ourselves. And part of that has to do with the fact that children see the world in a very egocentric way. We see the world as like, “Everything’s my fault.” Like you heard about divorce. Oh, it’s my fault. Right? That’s a very child like normal child, like way to process things. So it often, for those of us that have had histories of an experiences of exploitation, trafficking, it takes a while for us to kind of take off that lens and begin to see, “Oh wow, I was being groomed, I was being exploited. I didn’t see it. I was being manipulated, I was being coerced.” You know, my husband and I go into juvenile detention centers and we work with youth and many of them, you know, are victims, commercial sexual exploitation, and they, they’re in love with their exploiters because that’s the kind of manipulation and coercion that they have endured. So it’s complicated.
Garrett: Wow. Yeah. And no situation is the same.
Garrett: No person’s the same. So it most definitely is complicated.
Garrett: Was it challenging for you too, for you personally to accept the victim hood? And then the other question, the follow up question for that is once you did accept it, was it empowering to accept the victim hood?
Harmony: It was extremely challenging for me to accept victimhood in all the different ways. Even beginning with sexual abuse. There is just one, uh, you know, there’s just a level of like powerlessness really that, that I felt like I had to come face to face with. That’s very uncomfortable to say, wow. As a victim, I am not a person that finds a lot of comfort in an an a victim identity. I’m actually not, I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that I was a victim. I, I’d spent a lot of time telling my story, but I, my, my view of myself is that I am an overcomer and…
Garrett: And part of that story is victimhood.
Harmony: Right. I overcame being a victim, but I see myself as an empowered, strong person, but I don’t find my empowerment comes from having been a victim. Um, yeah. But I, I definitely had a hard time seeing it. It took a while.
Garrett: I can understand why that would be challenging to accept victimhood because none of us want to be vulnerable, right? Except like, “Oh, this happened to me and I was kind of…
Harmony: And you know, I wasn’t planning on sharing this. So this is kind of wild. I’m, I’m very cognizant of the experience I just shared with you, with the photographer. In fact, it’s in my book, right? It’s just a part of my story. I’m very aware of it, but as we were just sitting in a session earlier and they put up the definition on the board of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and I’ve been in this field for 16 years, there’s nothing really new that I’m seeing or hearing. I mean, I’m not saying I have a lot to learn. We all have a lot to learn, but you know it, it just had on there about, you know, the pornographic images of children. I all of a sudden saw that experience in a new way. I didn’t, I had not identified that person overtly, explicitly as an exploiter.
I all of a sudden started seeing what he did within the framework of grooming and started realizing, even though at 14 I felt like I was a grown person because I had lived a lot of life. I was a child and I don’t know where those images are. And so literally an hour or two hours ago, I came into a new awareness of my own victimization up until that point. I mean, did I think what he did was wrong? Yes. Was it an awful experience to go through who wants to be taken to a desert and have nude photos taken of them? Nobody, you know, yes, it was awful and experience, but I’m still growing in my own awareness and understanding of my experiences.
Garrett: There’s two things I want to mention from that comment and I don’t want to lose them. So let me write this down real quick.
Garrett: Okay. So the first thing I want to ask you, based on that experience, you just, you’ve been in the industry or you’ve been, um, fighting for love and fighting for true connection and, and meaningful relationships for 16 years.
Garrett: And you just have this aha moment.
Garrett: My question is, I think a lot of our listeners are going to be victims. They’re experiencing victimhood, Whether they’re just a person who was exposed to pornography at a very young age and now they have a challenge or their spouse has a challenge or a significant other or whoever, or there’s going to be also people, some of our listeners who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape. And I just wanted you to kind of acknowledge and, and touch on the fact that at 16 years you’re still healing.
Garrett: Because maybe, I don’t know what you would’ve said. I’m kinda curious. What would you have said yesterday if we were to ask you, “Are you healed?” What would you say?
Harmony: I’m on a journey. I’m very aware of the fact and I believe we all are, right? No one has arrived. Um, I would be nervous for the day I ever thought I had arrived. You know what I mean? Like it’s an ongoing process. I still, um, meet with a therapist…
Garrett: Good for you.
Harmony: …and I’m not falling apart, but I want, it’s like a tuneups. Like I want to continue to process and I want to continue to be really aware of the way my history of trauma is affecting my life today. And the way vicarious and secondary trauma affects my life today because I’m constantly working with people who are experiencing trauma. So I need to be awakened to all of that so I can be as healthy and and present as I can be.
Garrett: I love it. And I just want to kind of, you, you mentioned that the first of this conversation that you wanted it to be about hope too, right?
Garrett: And I think that is so much hope for our listeners because if you can put yourself back into the mind that you had at 16 or the mind you had at 19 in your first time stepping into a strip club and maybe for how long, I didn’t ask the question. How long were you engaged in sex work as a stripper?
Harmony: Three years.
Garrett: So let’s say a year and a half, mid point of that duration. Could you imagine? Could you imagine if someone came to, at that point said, “Hey, 16 years from now you’re going to be at a conference in DC on a panel with four women talking about the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation.”
Harmony: No, I couldn’t. And you know what else? I couldn’t imagine that they flew a flag on Capitol Hill and my honor.
Harmony: Yeah! Isn’t that crazy?!
Garrett: I want to give you a high, let’s do an air high five across the table.
Harmony: No, I couldn’t imagine…
Garrett: When did that happen?
Harmony: Uh, last year. I couldn’t imagine any of this. Um, I, you know what else? Just the simplest thing of having a healthy, amazing marriage and a family that has filled with joy. Are we perfect? No,
Garrett: That’s what I was just going to ask. I was going to say “Your marriage is probably perfect. Right?”
Harmony: Oh yeah, of course. “Perfect.” Oh my gosh. [laughter]. No, but you know why I’m telling you we are, we are a household filled with joy and we are a household that is committed to each other, committed to growth, committed to, um, growing and moving forward an intimacy. You know, and I, I’m so thankful and I could not have imagined that life and I’m so thankful and it’s possible. And um, but you know, what does it take? It takes whatever it takes. And I, I’ve been on this journey of healing and recovery for 20 years and over 20 years and I have had to fight for my healing and fight for my freedom and I’m not done fighting. And I’m okay with that, you know? And in different seasons it’s look like different things I’ve gone from, I’ve gone to individual therapy, group therapy, 12 step programs, celebrate recovery, grief recovery in whatever season I needed.
So I can continue to fight for my, my heart to be healthy and free. I’ve fought for it. And so anyone listening, it’s, I know it’s hard to face the pain. I know, you know, coming to terms with those moments where we are victims or victimizes is very difficult. The pain that it caused, but it is worth it. And we have to face the pain because you can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there and we can’t fix what we don’t face. And we, I believe, have the capacity to bring freedom to other people. I believe that we are designed to do that, but we can’t do that if we’re not free. So there is so much that is riding on our own willingness to fight for our own health freedom and recovery so that we can be effective and bringing freedom to other people.
Garrett: That’s what’s at risk, happiness and joy.
Garrett: And you do have to go through some tough times, all of us at different levels.
Garrett: One thing I wanted to ask, what time did you need to end?
Harmony: About now.
Garrett: Okay. If we, if I can ask you one last question, I wanted to ask you how you got out?
Harmony: Oh yeah.
Garrett: The experience of how you left the industry.
Harmony: So for me, the, the catalyst for change began with a friendship. I met a girl who loved me unconditionally, met me where I was at, didn’t judge me when I told her bits and pieces of the truth about my life. And she was someone who respected herself and had boundaries. And I saw in her an example of the kind of life that I wanted. She was not a therapist. She did not have a degree. She was a 20 nothing year old college student and she, and yet she made a profound impact in my life. And I believe that relationship and authentic community are so healing and that really her friendship has become a model for the way we do care at Treasures and the way we train other people to do care. Um, because it’s so important in that friendship really changed my life.
Garrett: Well, we hope that this experiences creates catharsis for our listeners. And so I just want to say thanks again for, for being here and anything, any last words you want to say to our listeners?
I want to say thank you for having me, first of all. Thank you for the work that you do. Um, and I just want to encourage anyone who’s listening. There is some, I’m sure something in their personal story or life that has drawn them to this podcast. And I just want to encourage you to keep going, keep moving forward, keep putting one foot, one foot in front of the other. It’s, it’s a process. Um, but it’s worth it. Um, and the other thing, if there are any people listening, um, women who have been in the sex industry or who have had experiences where they’ve been victims of exploitation and trafficking Treasures is available to support them. We are located in LA. Any woman who um, fills out the form on our website, we’ll send them a care package anywhere they are and we have a network of outreaches over 120 cities where we can hopefully find some support locally for you, um, as well. So the website is, iamatreasure.com.
Garrett: Wow. Thank you again. Um, just to recap everything you, you’re one person with a lot of experiences, but your experiences helped so many and so keep going. Thank you so much.
Harmony: Thank you for having me.
Garrett: Yeah, absolutely.
Garrett: Thanks for joining us on this episode of consider before consuming. Considered Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science facts and personal accounts.
If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest and the conversation we had, you can check out the links attached to this episode. If you’d like to learn more about Fight the New Drug, we invite you to check out The Get the Facts Articles. I have attached them to this episode or you can find them at ftnd.org/getthefacts. The Get the Facts Articles cover a wide variety of topics such as why consuming porn can be an escalating behavior, how porn affects the brain like a drug and how porn can become addictive. It has been said that the average person makes about 35,000 decisions every day, whether it’s deciding to hit the snooze button or not, which show to binge watch on Netflix or whether you will turn to pornography or not. That is a lot of decision making. We’re grateful that today one of your decisions was to listen to this conversation, so thank you. As you go about the rest of your day, we invite you to increase your self awareness. Look both ways, check your blind spots, and consider before consuming.