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Samantha's Story

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be someone's princess. I wanted to be loved and accepted. I wanted to be beautiful in someone's eyes. I believe every girl has her fairy tale dreams, and we work hard to make those dreams come true.

I come from a family of six: Mom, Dad, me and three sisters. Growing up, I was Daddy's little girl until about age eight, when he lost his job and became consumed with trying to make ends meet. My mom had to start working at that time too. That left us girls home alone most of the time.

We quickly learned that we had to take care of ourselves because we could not depend on anyone else. I began working at fifteen to provide things for myself that my parents could not afford. I worked many hours for little money all throughout high school. By the time I was eighteen, I was tired of working all the time and not having something to show for it. I began looking for something that was easy money.

Something sparked my memory. A boyfriend from a few years back mentioned a cousin who was an exotic dancer. I knew that I could make the same amount of money in one night dancing as I would make in a week at my other job. During my senior year of high school, I began to entertain the idea of becoming a dancer.

I began working at a club just a few weeks before my 18th birthday. At first, I was scared and nervous. I remember having butterflies in my stomach just before I stepped onto the stage. Would I be acceptable to the men in the crowd? That was my biggest concern. It didn't take long on stage for me to feel validated, to hear cheers and whistles, to have power over the men while teasing and flirting.

At last I was receiving the attention I craved. For those brief moments, I felt that I mattered to someone . . . and the money tucked into my costume proved just how much I was accepted. Then there were the lap dances and drinks - someone was actually paying money to spend time with me. I was actually worth that $15 drink to those men. I felt I finally had value.

I continued in the business for a few years. But something gradually began to nag at me. The longer I was a dancer, the more I realized that the only reason men were spending their money was because of what they could get from me. I was nothing more than a body, and I had no value in their eyes beyond that.

I began to hate men for being such users. I was exposed to some ugly and unbelievable fetishes and fantasies that the men expected me to fulfill. It became clear that I was nothing but a "toy" for them to use and throw away.

Somehow, I still justified dancing because I was making good money. It seemed worth it at the end of the night when I left with a big roll of cash. The turning point came one night during a lap dance. A customer had made me feel so dirty and worthless by some of the things he said and did. I realized I couldn't do it any more.

Up until that point, I had been pretty good at blocking out my feelings while I was at work. But now I began to see my job for what it was: I had tricked myself into being nothing more than a plaything, an object to be used for a man's shallow satisfaction. I couldn't ignore it anymore. I was tired of feeling so empty and used.

While I was working at the club, I met a friend of the bouncer and bartender. Kevin was at the club one night helping unload a delivery. It was a slow night, and he took time to talk with me. He asked me out on a date for the next day. At first, I assumed the worst about Kevin, based on my experiences over the past few years with customers. As I got to know him, though, I was struck by how compassionate and kind he was. He was interested in me, the real me.

He was very uncomfortable with me continuing to dance at the club. When I explained that I had a car payment and was saving to go to college, he said, "You don't need the money that badly." He actually changed jobs to earn more money to help pay my bills. I couldn't believe he would do that for me. That was an important first step for me. If someone as wonderful as Kevin thought I was worthwhile, maybe I did have some value after all.

We moved to another state and got married, and I earned my college degree. After we had our first child, a religious person going house-to-house in our neighborhood knocked on our door. I don't remember everything he said, but one thing stayed with me. He looked at my son and said, "God loves you a hundred times more than you could ever love your child." I knew how much I loved my baby . . . and I was overwhelmed by the glimmer of hope I felt. Maybe God could love me, even after all the things I had done as a dancer.

After our second child was born, I began thinking about finding a church to attend - not for me, but so that my kids could learn some good values. I was also looking for a pre-school for my oldest son. One of my co-workers' wives taught at their church's pre-school, and he invited me to go to church with them. I went, and it felt like a final piece of the puzzle clicked into place.

At last, I met the God who loved me in spite of everything I'd done. I found out who Jesus was, the Son of God who died and rose from the dead so that my wrongs could be made right. I had been loved all along, but I was so hungry for it that I had been satisfied with the scraps of admiration I'd felt from customers at the club. Now I knew what true love was, and that I mattered to God.

Kevin noticed changes in me after that. Although he wasn't interested in coming to church with me, he was really curious about the new me that began to emerge. He saw peace, joy and patience that hadn't been there before.

When we moved again for my job, he started coming to the new church we'd found. He also understood for the first time that he was loved by God, and began a relationship with the Jesus who loved him so much.

My life was better than I'd ever dreamed it could be, but I was still haunted by shame over my past. Sometimes, I was suspicious of Kevin's desire for me because it reminded me of customers in the club. So much damage had happened while worked as a dancer it still haunted me, especially in the area of our sex life. I sometimes still felt dirty, or like a piece of meat, from the way I'd been treated during those years I worked in the club.

One morning, I was looking in the mirror, and it was as though I could hear God gently saying, "It's forgiven. It's gone. Let it go." God's forgiveness washed over me, and I finally felt free of the shame I had carried for so long.

Kevin and I have been married now for twelve years, and we have four children. I feel so blessed, and my heart goes out to girls who are still working in the industry. I long for them to know they are loved, and that they matter to God. I want them to feel the love and acceptance I've finally found.

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