After more than a decade as a victim of the commercial sex industry, Annie Lobert shares not only her redemption story but those of others involved in sex trafficking.
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About the Author
Annie Lobert is a survivor of more than a decade of sex trafficking—working as an exotic dancer and a highclass escort prostituted in Hawaii, Minneapolis, and Las Vegas. She is an internationally recognized expert and advocate of ministry to men and women in the commercial sex industry from her personal experience. She and her husband, Oz Foxx, lead guitarist for the rock band Stryper, live in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Out of the Sex Industry and into the Arms of the Savior
By Annie Lobert
Worthy Publishing GroupCopyright © 2015 Annie Lobert
All rights reserved.
LITTLE GIRL LOST
"When one's lost, I suppose it's good advice to stay where you are, until someone finds you. But who'd ever think to look for me here?" —Alice in Alice in Wonderland
I entered the world on September 26, 1967, in southern Minneapolis, during the summer of love. Bell-bottoms ruled, miniskirts were the rage, mood rings were hip, Twiggy was queen, and the Beatles and the Doors blared.
I'll always consider myself a Minnesota girl, even though we lived in Illinois and Wisconsin as well. Because we moved around a lot, I was the "new girl" most of my young life, with my sense of security stripped away wherever I went. As difficult as that was, a part of me liked creating adventures in new places—from the turkey farm echoing with incessant gobbling to a brownstone-lined suburb of Chicago to a house next door to a synagogue where deeply religious Jews showed us compassion many times over when we were in need.
I loved my mama, Joann, dearly. Raised Catholic, she came from a large Polish family of nine siblings. As a little girl, I was attached to her at the hip. Wherever she went, I followed on her heels, sometimes even hanging on to her purse straps to make sure she was close. She made me feel safe when I was around her. We could talk about anything, and I knew that she always had my best interest at heart. I felt genuinely loved through her gentle grace and kindness.
My father, Chet, on the other hand, was not so gentle and kind. Dad served in the air force for a few years, and his personality reflected the strict, regimented military lifestyle. Originally from Chicago and of German and French descent, his roots trace back to Amsterdam, home of the famous red light district.
My sister, Diane, was the firstborn, and she took to her part well. She was smart, artistic, played the piano, and knew how to sew and cook. I looked up to Diane, who always did the right thing, but I was sometimes envious of her. I never forgot the comparisons my mom and dad would occasionally make about the two of us.
Unbeknownst to my family at the time, my sister was born with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue and causes rapid and excessive growth; we just thought she was unusually skinny and tall. Diane was teased a lot growing up. The kids nicknamed her "Buck Teeth" because of her overbite and "Bean Pole" because she was so thin. I often stuck up for her, regardless of my resentment toward her, because I knew what a great person she was. After all, she was my sis!
My brother Bill was almost two years older than I, and he was my protector. If anyone tried to give me a hard time as a kid, he would always step in and stop it. My little brother, Charlie, is two years younger than I and was a big clown who loved instigating trouble. He made life fun with his wild ways and playful personality. He would sometimes mercilessly pick dumb fights with me while Bill would sweep in like a knight in shining armor to rescue me and save the day. We Lobert kids loved each other. Though we had our share of typical sibling rivalry and conflicts, we were as thick as thieves.
Dad was the disciplinarian in the family. He had a deep, powerful voice that carried throughout the house. Whenever he yelled, I stopped dead in my tracks, whether I was skidding on the kitchen floor in my dirty socks or playing with my Barbie dolls in my room. His anger frightened me. Since I can remember, I was deathly afraid of making him mad.
If we kids didn't follow through with a task or chore according to what he considered was the right way, well, there was serious hell to pay. Out would come the forked leather belt, the end intentionally cut into straps. Like most parents of that generation, my father instilled the fear of beatings into us, the punishment for sassing, getting out of line, or rough-housing. While my brothers bore the brunt of Dad's physical anger, I was always worried that I would be next in line. It seemed I was forever waiting my turn.
* * *
While living in Minneapolis, my mom took us to church every Sunday. I enjoyed Sunday school because the teachers passed out candy and cupcakes, but the preaching during the service was long and boring. Week after week, the preacher's words strung together hypnotically and many times would make me fall asleep. The only time I sat up and paid close attention was during Christmas Eve services. I felt something pure and perfect, completely peaceful, during those services. Perhaps it was the presence of God. I would feel it so deeply and would cry when the choir sang melodies like "Ave Maria" and "Silent Night," because I knew instinctively there was good in the world. There just had to be. Jesus saw me and what I was going through. He had come to make all the wrongs done to me right.
I remember countless times watching tears stream down Mama's face during the last lackluster hymn on a regular Sunday right before the service concluded. "Mama," I would whisper, tugging the hem of her flowery print dress. "Why are you crying?" She would turn to me, a sadness in her eyes, and whisper back, "Hush now, Annie, be a good girl." I felt so bad for her. I could see she was deeply anguished. I didn't know what made her so upset, but I wanted to fix it.
I wondered if she cried because of Daddy. I knew his rage well. My father's violent behavior, his intimidating, booming voice, his insistence on harsh discipline --all those things caused me to fear him. Not only that, my memory would flash back to images of my dad yelling at my mom and punching her in the nose or eye to punish her for arguing with him. When he hit her I felt so bad for her ... powerless and helpless. I tried to distance myself from him, spending a lot of time in my room under my bed or hanging outside with my friends. When I was around him, I walked on eggshells, careful not to do anything to make him angry.
We had a bittersweet relationship. While I was extremely afraid of Daddy, I still longed for him to accept and love me. After all, I loved him, no matter what he did. I really did. And I thought if I was good enough, I could make him happy and finally earn his love.
Dad's words had a hold over me, and usually the things he said weren't so nice. I remember hanging out at the first Target in town with my friends when I was eight years old. On a dare, I stole some plastic toy Barbie shoes, stuffing my pockets full of the tiny high heels. Nervous and scared walking out of Target and into the parking lot, I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned around to look and my stomach instantly felt ill. I was apprehended by a security guard, who to me looked like Jesus, if Jesus happened to be a hippie with glasses and long hair. When I got home, I had to tell my father what had happened. I will never forget how afraid I was because I knew the punishment that was coming.
His words stung. "So you're a thief now? Why would you do something like that? What a bad little girl. Shame on you, Annie! Stupid girl!"
Surprisingly, I didn't get a severe whooping. My punishment was worse. Dad grounded me for a full thirty days. The worst part was that it was in the middle of summer vacation! I wasn't allowed to leave the house, not even to go into the backyard to play. Every night as I rested my head on my pillow, I felt the guilt and shame of his words cover me with more weight than my heavy blanket.
Throughout my childhood, I was lost in my father's anger, unsure of his love for me. I felt disconnected from him, and always hoped that maybe someday a bond would develop. The absence of love I felt from my father growing up left a life-sized hole in my heart that I became quite adept at trying to fill—usually with all the wrong things.
Years later, as an adult, I visited my parents in Wisconsin on Christmas, with the hopes of telling my dad I forgave him for how he treated me growing up. I had a deep sense of how important it was to do, not for him, but for me. It was part of my healing process. But as I opened my mouth to tell him, my dad bowed his head slightly and said, barely above a whisper, "Annie, I need to tell you something. I need to ask you to forgive me. I didn't treat you right growing up. My dad raised me pretty rough. He did things to me I can't talk about right now. I didn't know how to be a father. And I'm sorry." My father's voice trembled as tears slid down the face of a man I had rarely seen cry.
My tears joined his, and I reached out for his hand, rough from years of manual labor, worn from age and hard work. I held his hand as the stillness of the holy moment consumed us. I didn't even have to broach the topic. I didn't have to say a word. Dad said it all. And all the years of harshness, of feeling disconnected from him, of feeling unloved, unraveled in truth. Hurt people hurt people. And I finally understood why he acted the way he did—he was abused harshly as a child by my grandfather.
Don't get me wrong. I always loved my dad. I saw the good in him. I knew how much fun he could be. Sometimes he'd play games with us, his bellowing voice softened by hearty laughter. He would take us on fishing and camping adventures to lakes up north in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Other times he'd take us on wild rides on our snowmobiles in the cold and snowy Minnesota winters and hit the four-wheelers when spring and summer came. We always got the latest toys before the other kids in town. I thought it was strange because we didn't have much money, certainly nothing extra we could afford to spend on frivolous things. What I didn't know was that he was depleting his retirement account with those purchases. Maybe it was a way to relieve the guilt he felt for being harsh with us.
Guilt makes you do funny things. It's a powerful emotion that changes how you look at, react, and respond to people, situations, and life. Guilt that stems from a place of confusion is a tricky thing. While it may not be legitimate, it can still shape you. And it can create in you a shame that grows and festers for years.
* * *
When I was nine years old, I hung out with a girl a few years older than me from my school. Every now and then I'd spend the night. We'd watch TV way past midnight, shovel popcorn in our mouths, and talk about nothing too important—you know, little-girl stuff.
On one particular sleepover, I woke up early one morning and found her on top of me, groping my body. No more little-girl stuff. I was shocked, grossed out. I didn't know exactly what she was doing; I just knew it made me feel awkward and uncomfortable. "I don't want to do that," I said, wrangling my body out from under hers. My friend just shrugged and began talking about her record collection.
I was so embarrassed, and I didn't want to make a big deal about it. I tried to forget about it, hoping it was an isolated incident. But something similar happened weeks later. And then again. I was so confused. She was my friend, yet I felt violated. I was afraid to tell anyone, and the guilt consumed me. I blamed myself for what happened and wondered if God could ever forgive me. I decided then that I was a dirty little girl, undeserving of redemption. I carried the shame with me over the years, blaming myself time after time when others mistreated or even abused me. I felt responsible. The instinctive voice in my head said it was always my fault.
At the time of the abuse, I began attending a Lutheran parochial school. My previous elementary school had closed down, and my father didn't like the neighborhood the new school was in. My parents had enrolled me in what I was sure would be a stuffy eight-hour bore fest, given my church experience. I was gloriously wrong.
There I discovered a faith rooted in love and joy. My teacher, Miss Barbara, glowed with something special that I couldn't quite figure out at first. Then I realized what it was. She was never worried. She never seemed to have a bad day. She had peace, and always wore a genuine smile. I wanted to be like her, happy, confident, and full of joy. She would play the guitar in class and sing songs. The first one I ever learned was "I got the joy-joy-joy-joy down in my heart." With sweet kindness in her eyes, she shared how Jesus was my friend and loved me so much, and that there wasn't anything or anybody who could stop Him from loving me.
Seeds were planted. I wanted the kind of love that Miss Barbara spoke of, the kind of love it was evident she felt. I started to believe that Jesus loved me, that it was possible to be loved, even when I wasn't perfect and I messed up. However, that small sense of inner security would sadly be ripped away whenever the neighborhood girl made sexual advances.
I had my first real crush when I was nine, and I was pretty sure I was going to go steady with him. As far as I was concerned, I was all grown up and knew what I was doing. He was the first boy to hold my hand, the first to share a kiss. My ecstasy at finding true love was short-lived, however, as my parents had to pull me out of the school because they couldn't afford the tuition any longer.
Crushing on that kid revealed my deep-rooted desire for love, for a fairy tale. It was in my bones. Disney movies established a precedent for my romantic expectations —specifically the part about falling in love and living happily ever after. That whimsical notion was the focus of every movie I watched and consequently became the goal of my life. I was Cinderella. I knew there was a fancy life-changing ball that I was going to be invited to one day. How hard could it be, right?
I wanted my prince. I needed him. I pined after the image of a well-dressed, handsome, smart guy who would buy me roses and sweep me off my feet. I think those unrealistic expectations set the stage for me to become boy crazy in my preteen years. I constantly giggled around boys and craved their attention. I mean, it was all about the boys! I'd get butterflies in my stomach when a cute guy would smile approvingly at me or dole out a compliment.
* * *
Right before I entered the sixth grade, we moved to Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, a little country town about seventy miles from Minneapolis. My parents had bought property there a few years earlier, and Dad wanted out of the city because his job was stressing him out. He loved the country life, the peaceful setting of the great outdoors, the pace of farmers who weren't bound by time clocks and demanding bosses. I didn't want to move. I finally had established some roots in Minneapolis. I had friends. I knew all the kids in the neighborhood, and everyone knew me.
For the first six months, we lived in a trailer without running water while my dad and brothers built our new home. We had to shower at our neighbors' down the road. I hated it. It was embarrassing and inconvenient, and once again I was the new girl on the block, but this time I lived way out in the country and had to ride a bus for over an hour just to get to the middle school.
The kids there were stuck up, and the pressure to fit in was overwhelming, especially because I was in a physically awkward stage. I was flat as a board, but my mom took me shopping for a bra anyway. Could life get any worse? I hated school, but I didn't hate boys. And the few girlfriends I had just added to the problem because we were constantly talking about cute boys we thought we were in love with.
I did hate being picked last in gym class. Hated when teachers called on me and I would get tongue-tied, tripping up my words. Hated when I was made fun of because I didn't wear cool layered polo shirts, boat shoes, or turtlenecks with specks of stars and hearts on them like the popular girls did. I hated being called ugly names by girls and getting pushed and punched in the stomach by boys (whom I later found out had crushes on me). Basically I hated the way I was treated at school. I felt unlovable and was convinced there was something seriously wrong with me.
My one escape was music. I could play the piano by ear since I was five. And in the eighth grade, I taught myself how to play the guitar, plucking away on a cheap acoustic my sister had found at a yard sale. I would hear songs on the radio and strum along. At night I'd listen to the lulling sounds of classical music on my Walkman, floating away on the heavenly melodies of Mozart and Handel. I loved music. And yet, not even the classics could soothe my pain. I had so much pent-up angst that was dying to escape.
I know now this is unfair to my dad, but at the time I resented him. I resented him for spending money to build up his antique collection while making me shop at garage sales or the local church basement for my outfits. I resented him for not understanding how important it was for me to fit in with all the cool kids. I resented not being able to participate in after-school activities because we lived too far away and didn't have the money for it anyway. Dad tried his best—I know that now—but somewhere between the resentment I felt toward him and the exhausting climb to try to win his approval, I snapped. I figured I might as well try the bad route but keep it quiet, like a secret rebellion. Because the good route wasn't getting me anywhere I wanted to be.
Excerpted from Fallen by Annie Lobert. Copyright © 2015 Annie Lobert. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Prologue: "Break Yourself!" ix
Chapter 1 Little Girl Lost 1
Chapter 2 Fallen Arises 17
Chapter 3 He Who Sold Me a Dream 41
Chapter 4 Broken Wings 55
Chapter 5 The Pimp Game 69
Chapter 6 Runaway Girl 93
Chapter 7 Renegade 119
Chapter 8 Glorious Disaster 137
Chapter 9 Learning to Fly 155
Chapter 10 Arms Wide Open 175
Chapter 11 Freed to Set Others Free 189
Chapter 12 My Dream Come True 199
Appendix A What Is Sex Trafficking? 209
Appendix B Testimonials from Destiny House 217
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A story of God's grace and how HE uses all circumstances in your life to spread His word and love for all people. Parts are hard to read but they are truth of what is actually happening in the world of darkness.