Holding the WoundedTuesday, January 22, 2013
Last night, I came home, saw my husband waiting at the door and all I wanted was for him to wrap me up in his arms. I realized how incredibly blessed I am to have him, loving and taking care of me. I am blessed that my children were warm and safe in their beds...
Truthfully, I figured that my mother-in-law was exaggerating about the illegal acts going on inside the strip bars. Last time I went, I came home with a smile because I was able to share Jesus and didn't see anything but topless ladies walking back and forth from the dressing room. In my mind, I could handle seeing that and maintain my composure and witness. It never occured to me that much worse was happening behind me on the stage...
People outside the ministry have told me that the ladies are going to be put off by Christian women walking in to be a friend to them. I haven't seen this at all. Last night, I walked into the club and found a single dancer at the bar with her drink, tears in her eyes. A half hour later, I turned around and found another dancer (fully clothed and off duty because she was a day dancer) with two drinks, a cigarette and tears pouring down her cheeks. These are not prideful women that enjoy what they do. If you think that, you've not visited any of the clubs I've been in. These aren't glamorous locations with flashy lights and rich business men. These are places where they girls' nails are chipped, they've had a baby or two (or nine) and not a single person acknowledges state laws and regulations.
Indiana has some strict laws and regulations regarding the adult entertainment industry. It is illegal for women to not wear pasties or bandaids. If the girls are wearing a g-string, they must wear a mesh stocking (or something or another) over it. There is never to be any touching whatsoever, let alone blantant sex acts being preformed on stage or in a private room. In the three clubs I've gone in, there were no pasties or mesh stockings....and I will refrain from explaining how the no-touching rule was way more than disregarded.
The hardest part was when I was talking to a lone dancer when we first walked in. She was at the bar drinking, wrapped up in a winter coat. She was awkward. She didn't look like what you envision a dancer looking like. She looked...run down. Or beaten down. She kept ducking her head during our conversation, as if she were ashamed. She didn't meet my eyes until I started telling her funny stories and making her giggle. I acted like she was fully dressed like me and that we were old friends. I told her and the awesome bartender the story about the lady busting into my house. They burst out laughing when I said I made her coffee and held her hand...
But suddenly, her smile was gone and she ducked her head again. Her eyes were sad when she said, "Sorry...I...I have to go...make money." A man had walked in and taken a seat right up at the stage. She took off her coat, picked her song...and stepped up to the pole. I looked away. But the next time I glanced up the man was performing a sex act on her. My heart plummeted. I turned around in my seat and looked at Deborah and the bartender (the bartender can't see anything from her location). Other men started coming in to the club and sitting at tables...and this was happening right in the middle of the club...right on the stage. No one cared. It was normal. There was no shame.
It took me about fifteen minutes to snap out of the funk I was in after seeing this. I was speechless and blinking a lot to try to keep my tears at bay. I had just talked with her. I knew she couldn't be enjoying what was happening to her. Truthfully, I wanted to go rescue her. Instead, I ordered a bottle of water and sat at the bar taking the cap on and off and pretending to sip from it. It was awful. I kept crossing and uncrossing my legs...all antsy. Thankfully, the drunk dancer beside me took my mind off everything. I had the opportunity to hold her hand while she cried and spontaneously started laughing and telling me jokes. She was drunk because her husband was so mean to her, she explained. At one point, she blinked and said, "Do you work here? You're beautiful!" I tried not to be offended because, so far, all the dancers just looked worn out and a mess. But I smiled and said, "No, I don't, but thank you." She glanced over me and giggled, "Ah, yes! You have your clothes on, don't you?" Later she would look at me with dazzled eyes and say, "I love your hair! How do you get it to stand up like that?" I winked at her and said, "Believe it or not, it just grows straight out my head like this." She burst into happy giggles and I laughed with her. Five minutes later, she was in our arms sobbing as we prayed with her right there at the bar.
The thing is, these women don't belong to anyone. They were abused as children and got hooked up with the wrong man. They all have the same story. In one club, there is a grandma that has danced all her life and still dances. At one point, she stripped with two of her daughters. In another club, a mother sits at table and orders one drink after the other and watches her daughter take off her clothes on the stage. When asked why, she says, "I have to make sure no one hurts her." She cries into her empty beer glasses...her eyes always on her daughter.
When I put on my coat and gathered my things to leave, the bartender followed me to the door and held my in her arms. "It was so nice to meet you," she said close to my ear. "These girls need women like you. It means so much to them that you ladies come here."
At home, I let a few tears escape. I shared with Roger who I thought was going to cry. It's very, very hard for him to let me go, but he does because he knows I'm built for work like this. You see, most of these girls still have the dreams they had as children. They want to be a nurse, or a mommy... but not me. I wanted to grow up and me Maverick from Top Gun. ;P I wanted to be a fearless fighter...a hero.
We live in a country that proudly flaunts our freedom. We are foolish. I was foolish. These women don't want to be there, but because of the cycle of abuse and the way they were made to feel worthless as little girls, they are trapped in bondage and slaves to sex, drugs and more abuse. It isn't as simple as deciding not to strip anymore or be pimped out. The key is proving to them that they are worth something...that they are beautiful and invaluable. The key is walking in to the most wretched of places and holding their hand before and after they dance and are molested. The key is knowing what is really happening and becoming impassioned to pray and support in however God directs you. But it takes more than just saying 'no'.
"Please pray that a good man comes in here and helps me get out of this place," a dancer said as I was leaving. I nodded and said I would be praying. What I wanted to say was, "I'll do whatever I can to get you out of here. Just give me the time."
Please pray for me and the ministry. Pray for these girls. Some of the clubs have been shut down, and as a result, we are not welcome at a few particular clubs. Last night we were asked to leave at one, but not before I was able to give a free photo session away to a stripper who has a grandchild with a life-threatening disease. It blessed and surprised her. When we left, I walked straight up to the giant dude who said we weren't welcome to stay. I held out my hand to shake his and smiled, looked right in his eyes, "I'm Gia...and I really appreciate you letting us come in for a moment and love on these ladies." I could see the shame wash over him. He cut his eyes away and said softly, "Aw...it's okay."
So, I would be so blessed by your prayers. Share the stories if you feel that it might help. But mostly, pray for us and all the ministries like this one operating all across the nation. There are people that are not free. Don't be fooled in thinking that they are.