Sex-trafficking survivor Annie Lobert shares how God’s love healed her and led her to minister to other victims in the industry
- Posted on Mar 30, 2015
There are between one and two million sex workers in the United States and Annie Lobert used to be one of them. As she details in her In her new memoir, Fallen, Lobert was a heartbroken teen who suffered under an abusive father and survived molestation and rape before turning to sex work to make fast money and get out of her home state of Minnesota.
From Hawaii to Las Vegas, Lobert experienced natural highs from all of the money she was earning on her own as an independent call girl. “The sex industry is a slippery industry,” she tells Guideposts.org. “It’s very hard to get out of it even if you do feel like you have a choice (which many don’t). The money is so good. The favor is so good. The attention is addictive. The nice jewelry, the presents, the cars, the houses-- it’s all so addictive.”
But this “honeymoon experience,” as she calls it, didn’t last for very long. Her boyfriend whom she trusted and loved beat her one night when she returned home from the strip. He declared that he would be her pimp and she would have to give him all of her money. For the next five years, Lobert was a victim of sex trafficking, doing whatever her trafficker boyfriend demanded that she do, under threat of pain and death.
But it wasn’t just her trafficker that she had to fear; the clients, or ‘johns’ abused her too; one even raped and robbed her at gunpoint, something Lobert says is extremely common.
“You cannot regulate the sex trafficking industry,” she says. “You’re going to be abused. There is no panic button. You can’t avoid that.”
Years of verbal, physical, sexual and emotional abuse led Lobert to believe she was worthless and irredeemable, a strategy sex traffickers often use to keep their workers isolated from their families so they have no one to run to and no way to escape.
Though Lobert managed to get away from one trafficker, she wound up under the control of another who was just as abusive as the first. One day, Lobert found lumps on her neck, and was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. She went through chemotherapy and lost all of her hair, but she was still forced to work. She continued going on calls sick, wearing wigs, and continued feeling unloved and unlovable.
Soon Lobert turned to drugs to numb the pain. It was only when she overdosed that she realized she could change. She had a vision of herself dead in her casket with her family all around her saying, “She was just a prostitute.” Lobert cried out to God and begged Him to save her. Miraculously, He did. She felt His love all around her in that moment and she was forever changed.
“The love of God changed me completely. That's what healed me, a program didn’t heal me; a book didn't heal me; it was the love of God. It cleaned me. It made me feel worthy. It made me feel like I have a purpose in my life and I have to do the same for other people.”
Lobert’s cancer went into remission and she received counseling for drug abuse and post traumatic stress disorder, which she had developed during the decade she was a sex worker. After treatment, Lobert answered God’s call to return to the Las Vegas strip and minister to other sex workers who are being trafficked. Through her ministry, Hookers for Jesus , she meets sex workers where they are and offers them help to get out of the industry and start new lives in Christ.
At Destiny House, Lobert houses former sex workers and offers them professional counseling, job training, mentorship and Christian teaching to help them become self-sufficient workers free of their past.
“We bring the grace element to these girls. Where everyone else would judge them, we bring the love of God to them that is needed desperately.”
It’s that atmosphere of grace and love, whether in her street ministry or at Destiny House, that Lobert says is the key to getting sex workers out of the industry for good. “If we have people around us who encourage us every time we fall into that sin, it’s easier for us to get back up when we know we’re still loved.”
Lobert can’t count the number of people her ministry has actually helped because “each woman is either a mother or a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend. They are a part of a community, so when we help them, we help so many other people that we’ll never know about.”
That ripple effect of showing God’s grace and mercy and empowering other people to do the same is exactly why Lobert feels God spared her life. Through her memoir and her ministry, she hopes others in the church will understand the horrific world of sex trafficking and open their eyes, hearts and arms to the survivors of the industry and welcome them into the church without judgment.
“The church worships virginity far too much," she says. "It’s not our sexuality that makes us pure, it is the love of Christ. Even Jesus said, “The pure in heart will see God.’ So we need to look at each other through the lens of God’s purity.
“If we think well of each other, no matter what we’ve been through, and we don’t judge each other’s pasts, we don’t judge someone that’s been promiscuous, we don’t judge a thief, we don’t judge homosexual people, we don’t judge people--then we’re looking at people with purity. We give them a chance to feel the love of God, which is complete grace and acceptance.”
Annie Lobert’s memoir, Fallen, is available here.