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Interview with Anny Donewald

Sex Trafficking. Could it happen to one of your own? Anny Donewald was rescued from the sex industry and has been rescuing others, like her, who are trapped, through her non-profit organization Eve’s Angels. Join us in the studio as she tells her story. #BodyImage

About Anny

Anny Donewald earned her B.S. in Family Studies with a minor in Sociology from Western Michigan.At the age of 19, Anny entered the sex industry. This decision directly impacted the next six years, and changed the course of her life forever. She was an exotic dancer in Chicago, Detroit, and other various cities across the country before landing in Las Vegas and California. There it escalated into prostitution.

Upon becoming pregnant with her second child and contemplating another abortion, Anny sought spiritual guidance. With nothing to lose and searching for options, she prayed a simple prayer asking for God’s help. That’s when God stepped in with the miraculous: Anny made five different appointments that all, through different circumstances, got cancelled. Anny had a son. A month after his birth, a bible scripture reference popped in her head, “Matthew 4:16″. Having no previous knowledge of the bible, she found it and read, “Those who sat in darkness have seen a great Light.” Less than twenty-four hours later, she received the Revelation that Jesus was her Savior. She was Born Again.

Click to read Transcript

EASLEY: Paul writes, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death. When I read Romans, I’m always struck that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. Paul says it clearer than anywhere in Scripture, once we come to Christ He sees us differently.

Today on the broadcast we will be talking with Anny Donewald. Anny, at the age of nineteen entered the sex industry. For six years of exotic dancing in Chicago, then in Detroit eventually landing her in Las Vegas and California escalating into a high class prostitution lifestyle. It was only after her second pregnancy where she was contemplating another abortion, had five failed attempts to schedule that abortion, and in that pregnancy center, through “God’s intervention”, in her words, of leaving a hundred dollars behind at home, she was unable to pay for the abortion. That was the event that struck her so hard and not long after the verse, Matthew 4:16, pops into her head. Having never read the Scripture; having never known anything about the verse; and she reads, “Those who sit in darkness have seen a great light.” Within the next day, she trust Christ to be her Saviour. Anny is born again. Anny Donewald, it’s a privilege to have you on the broadcast. Thanks for joining us.

DONEWALD: Thanks for having me.

E: I suspect at some level you get a little tired of telling your story.

D: That’s why I wrote the book.

E: Touche! Ok everyone just buy Dancing for the Devil and we’ll talk to Anny later.

D: The end. The end of the story.

E: Let me start at a different place. You finished a Science of Bachelor and Family Studies.

D: I did. It was at Michigan University. I sure did.

E: What’s going on with your life? Which we’ll get to in a moment. Did any of this collide with what you were studying?

D: It’s funny because I was dancing in college and I went to my academic advisor and said “What is the quickest way out of here?” That was the answer he gave me so it’s ironic how God set that whole thing up. The core of that degree is human development and I took a lot of classes on: Abnormal Psych, Abnormal Abuse, different things like that totally help me with what I’m doing now.

E: But at the time?

D: No idea.

E: No idea.

D: No idea what I was going to do. I just wanted a degree and I wanted to move on.

E: Well Anny at age thirteen, you are sexually abused by a player on your Dad’s basketball team.

D: My father was a basketball coach at Western Michigan University. He had been at Illinois State University prior to that and he was coaching with Coach Bobby Knight at Indiana. When we moved to Kalamazoo, things kind of took a turn and the book gets into growing up in the limelight, growing up in a bubble, kind of having that bubble for me burst at the age of thirteen when I was sexually assaulted by one of his players. The toll that it takes when you keep secrets at that age, I had a decision to make that young on whether I was going to tell and in my mind I had the presser of my father losing his career; this being a University scandal so at thirteen years I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell. What happens with girls that age and they’re keeping their mouth shut, they become toxic because they don’t have the right skills in order to be able to cope with that kind of crisis. My life started to become unraveled from then on.

E: I would suspect even then, there probably were not the resources today, even if you had chosen to come forward, or would there have been resources if you had come forward?

D: No, I’m not sure. My whole concern is that a thirteen year old is making a decision to protect her father who has a huge career. I wasn’t into “I wonder if somebody could help me?” It was just,“Let’s just keep this quiet. Let’s not tell anybody.” Because I knew that my father would have killed him. So I made the decision to keep quiet.

E: Four years later?

D: I was in high school. The rabbit trail got worse. Down the rabbit hole I went and I was away on campus. I was at a boarding school and I was raped at seventeen. Again things became even more toxic and more unraveled. I tell these stories not to be graphic or to glorify all of this trauma, but to explain why girls in the sex industry don’t just wake up one day and want to do that kind of work. There’s a reason that’s not a job choice at career day when you’re in elementary school. So I think a lot of the reason that I wanted to write the book was to show this is what happens. It isn’t these girls that love sex or it isn’t these girls are so devious and rebellious. I’ve never met a girl in the sex industry that hasn’t had some abuse that’s happened to her.

E: That of course is not a very popular message in the film industry?

D: I think it’s well known that it’s in the adult film industry. We all have a common denominator and we’re all survivors. Actually, I think it gets a little touchy in the church because we don’t want to talk about that in church; we don’t want to talk about the mess of life; we don’t want to talk about the abuse, and so sometimes that message is a little less received in church community, more than it is in the adult entertainment industry.

E: So you’re seventeen years old, you’ve been traumatized, oversexualized, I guess we could say? Too early.

D: That’s a good way to put it.

E: By nineteen years of age?

D: There were girls that showed up at my door and I ended up becoming friends with about nine of them. They were all exotic girls; they were all strippers. Being around that for a while, it becomes normal. It was almost like they indoctrinated me into a culture that I didn’t even know existed, but it wasn’t a huge leap to transition into that culture. I ended up a couple of weeks later, after meeting with them and hanging out with them on a regular basis, doing an amature night at the strip club in Kalamazoo.

E: Did you feel any connection to those women? Was there,even though it was strange, like a community with them?

D: Sure. There was commonality. Like I said, girls in the sex industry kind of have a lot of things in common. We’ve come from a lot of different places. We’ve come from a lot of broken places so I think there was a lot of camaraderie between us. We look out for each other, in its own dysfunctional way.

E: So you start as an exotic dancer at nineteen? You also become pregnant, you write in your book? Then what?

D: I  had my daughter. I quit for a while. I dropped out of school. The sex industry is its own culture. You can’t live in two cultures at once and so you get up for class at eight o’clock in the morning and I just got home from work at five and I’m intoxicated on whatever, that’s kind of hard balance. I ended up dropping out of school when I started dancing, but then went back after I was pregnant with my daughter and got quite a bit of college under my belt. Once I had her I ended up back in the industry.

E: Anywhere along that time, your folks made a fine Christian home, you’ve shared in the past? Anywhere in this process you’re talking to them?

D: At that time, I thought that it was best to keep my distance. It was real clear to everybody, my Dad still being in the public eye, everybody knew his daughter was toxic to some degree. Again, just to save face, and protecting him, I kind of kept my distance from the family and from the program. They didn’t really want to watch their daughter unravel and we were in touch. I personally created a space, just because I knew that the choices I was making were reflecting on him and reflecting on my family.

E: Undoubtedly, you saw this story last year Alyssa Funke, straight A student at U of Wisconsin. She went and made a porn video for some money. She came back to high school, straight A kid, came back to high school and the social media thing went viral with all of her “friends.” She kills herself. Nineteen year old, straight A girl.

D: Here’s the thing about her though. We don’t understand her backstory, so it’s easy to look at that and go what happened? I guarantee if you talk to her family, or if you talk to her friends, it wasn’t an overnight decision for her to jump into porn. Nobody does that. She was a straight A student. What happened in the interim? I’d be curious. I think that’s where as Christian, that’s where compassion comes in because it’s easy to look from the outside looking in at somebody’s story and judge them for the decisions they make. When we look at them from the inside, we can see “Ok, where this happened here and this happened here,” and we start to understand the things that they do, that’s where compassion comes in. Even with the work that I’m doing now, that’s what we try to do.

E: When you talk to parents or teens, what are you telling them to watch for early on?

D: I think with parents, I get a lot of emails from mothers that are concerned about their girls, different things with the organization, and one of the things we’re really advocating about is sex trafficking. They ask, “What are we supposed to be looking for?” The number one thing is change and behavior. A parent knows their kid more than anybody else. If there’s all of a sudden a change in behavior they’re kind of disconnected. Don’t just automatically think it’s just something teenage girls go through because it might be deeper than that.

E: Social media? It wasn’t during your journey?

D: Social media wasn’t an issue when I was doing that. It would have been an even bigger mess than we have now. That would have been a whole other book.

E: It seems to be getting worse. Viral is an understatement. Permutations of Snapchat. Videos that can be destroyed after viewing and yet they’ll leave impressions and footprints everywhere. You know when I was a teenage boy, to come across a Playboy or Penthouse, you were fearing God and your parents, but the accessibility and technology makes it so easy for boys and girls to be oversexualized at a very early age.

D: In this country where we leave, we’re selling shampoo by using sex. We’re definitely oversexualized women in this country.

E: Then how do you help those little girls and they see a picture of Anny who’s a beautiful women?

D: I think the number one thing with younger girls, my daughter now is sixteen years old and I’ve been really active in her life; I’m active in her social life, and a lot of the girls will come to our house and we’ll talk about things they don’t necessarily want to tell their mom. I think the number one message we’re just trying to tell women in general is to become who God created you to be. You don’t have to be reduced down to your sexuality. You don’t have to be defined by something you did in your past, but God made you specifically for a purpose. So if we can get to the heart of that. A lot of times people ask me when we’re helping girls out of the sex industry now, and they say, “I don’t know how you’re going to do that because girls will always go back to the money.” I always explain to them that there’s something more important to them than every human soul than money. If you can lead them and help them discover who they were created to be, it will always take precedent over anything else, including sin, including things they’re not supposed to be doing, including alcohol, premarital sex. If you can catch them on fire at a young age for who they were created to be and help them through that, their whole life can change. That’s the message that we send.

E: You started Eve’s Angels as an extension of this, where you’re not only trying to help girls in the trafficking situation, but you’re working with some churches too, correct?

D: We are! We are partnered with about nine churches in the country right now. We’re looking to expand into some other cities. There’s a lot of education that needed to go on when I first started. I’m just really grateful because in the last year or two I’ve seen this great awakening in the church where they’re becoming familiar with things like: sex trafficking, sex industry, post traumatic stress and some of these things that I was already familiar with and went through it all. When the ministry first started and I would go to these churches and I would say, “Hey, listen we need your help.” They’d look at me as though I was a blue alien. They’d say, “What? What are you talking about?” There’s definitely a movement inside the church, that they’re starting to understand and they’re starting to advocate, they’re starting to wake up to the fact that these are God’s girls. He wants to go in there and He wants us to love them.

E: When you take a group of women and you go to a strip club, during the day or the evening and try to share with these women, do you feel threatened?

D: Never.

E: Never?

D: No, the industry again is its own culture. I understand the rules. You would probably feel threatened if you went over to Africa and went into the bush. You don’t understand the culture so it might feel a little bit more threatening, whereas I’m from there and I took you over there myself, you wouldn’t feel so threatened because you’d feel comfortable about the fact that I understood the culture. It’s the same thing with the sex industry. It’s its own culture. It has its own rules, it has its own thing and if you go in there, you’re not judgemental; you’re not in fear because they can read you. They have to for survival purposes, but they know that we’re coming with love and they know that we don’t have an agenda. We’re just there to support them in any way, shape or form and when they’re ready to quit, then we’re ready to help them with that as well.

E: You also have a ministry link on your sight called Armed. Tell us about that.

D: The Arm’s Campaign. I’m on an advisory board to a State Senator in the State of Michigan and I was doing some speaking engagements for her and she called me and said, “What are we missing?” I said, “Judy, I feel like there’s no men at any of your events.” She said, “What are we going to do about it?” I said, “I don’t know. Let me pray about it.” I felt like it wasn’t because men were apathetic or because they didn’t care. It was because they were ignorant. So men weren’t getting involved, because they didn’t understand what was happening in this country. So I set up the Arms Campaign. It’s Association of Real Men Ending the Demands. It basically means you pledge online saying you won’t buy women or children for sex in any way, shape, or form. The goal is to get men educated, because men can have conversations with other men that women aren’t privy too. They need to know. It might be in the locker room or in a men’s meeting. If we can educate them then it can spread. It’s like a grassroot effort to spread the knowledge of what’s happening in this country with sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. So we’re trying to start a movement with the men to protect women instead of use them as we see so often.

E: Do you think men understand when they’re looking at pornography or going to strip clubs, do you think they understand what they’re doing to a young woman’s heart, soul, mind?

D: I don’t. One of the main questions people ask me is, “Don’t you hate men now?” The answer is no. I don’t hate men. I think broken people do broken things. I also understand that not all men see that they are broken when they’re in there. When a man is participating in this industry, I don’t think that a man understands that they are people. He sees them as products, but it’s so conditioned in his mind because of the culture that we’re living in. It’s like we can’t change him, what we have to do is change the culture. Like I said, he’s just as broken as the woman that is onstage. What’s the difference? Everybody’s in there trying to get a need met. It’s a counterfeit way to get it. If we can change the culture and again we can start defining women by who they are rather than what they can do or their sexuality, then we’ve made a difference.

E: How did Anny get to a place where she could disassociate who she was and what she was doing and this new identity in Christ, and how do you look at your own life?

D: That’s a really good question. Ok, two parts. How do I go and do what I do now? I spent years on the floor of a church sobbing, crying, just finding out who I was, and realizing the lies, that I was believing about who I was, realizing what I could do in people’s lives. So I think that that’s where we try to lead people. There’s a lot of ministries, or outreach teams that go throughout the country, that go out and reach out to these women in the sex industry. Some of them, they don’t want to be offensive, so they don’t tell them about Jesus and that to me coming from the sex industry is terribly insulting. If you have the key to get me out of the hell, I’m going to need you to give me the key. Even if I’m insulted for a minute, I still need you to come in love and tell me about who it is that sets people free because that’s the only answer that I have. Jesus is it.

E: So you come to a saving faith in Christ; He transforms your life; you spend a long time on the floor of the church, which I could totally envision anyone who’s been through that kind of trauma. It makes sense. There’s got to be times in your soul, Anny, when you say, “Wow, He loves me?! He sees me as His beloved child?! How do I go forward? How do I use this? Is my whole life defined by this?”

D: Like when I’m doing interviews?

E: Exactly. Like some guys interviewing you for the umpteenth time.

D: I love the fact that you understand that. Most people don’t have a heart, or even have the mind to comprehend that. There’s a friend of mine; her name is Anny Lobert and she runs a ministry called Hookers for Jesus. We always get a boot out of, “Uh oh, I’ve got to put my silent letter back on and go tell my story.”

E: I’m sorry to be laughing.

D: I love her because she has a similar story like mine so I can get on the phone with her and we don’t see each other like that. Do you see what I mean?

E: Yeah!

D: I’m not the zebra at the zoo or something to be watched and that does get exhausting. I have spent a lot of time in prayer and on the phone with my pastor. What am I supposed to do? They all want me to come in and tell the story over and over. It’s part of helping, number one. It’s part of helping the girls, so if I tell my story and it helps somebody then it was worth it. That’s number one. Number two, I think it’s important to have balance. There’s times when I kind of shut things down and just go play chess or jenga with my kids. There’s certain things that I have to do to keep myself out of that all of losing your identity or getting swamped in all of the totality of everything that I’ve been through. I’ve learned about the free will. I think if I hadn’t we wouldn’t have been able to expand the way that we did.

E: Anny, tell us about your goals for Eve’s Angels and what you need.

D: Right now we’re really pushing to become corporate. Right now everything is on a volunteer basis and I have the best volunteers that have really carried the vision in seven, eight cities across the country. We’re looking to expand. We’re doing major fund raising. We have a huge event May 9th in Chicago for our five year anniversary. We’re doing a silent auction so we can do expansion. We’re doing two porn conventions this year so that’s another thing we’re doing. We’re also looking to do a housing rehabilitation center. That was the thing, I always had a home to go too. My parents were always there for me, but a lot of these women don’t have a place. Because I lived through what it takes to get out into rehabilitate myself and I walk with the Lord and I’m doing all these things, it’s important that we have these structures set up for these women who want to come out and be a family. Not all of them are blessed like I am to have a family. So these are the things that we’re working towards right now. I’m in Chicago and I’m in Grand Rapids, and I’m in Detroit and I really feel like 2015, 2016, those things need to happen sooner than later.

E: So Anny, if I hear you correctly. The church could do a much better job. If we could see not only sex traffic girls, but just individuals as hurting, as lost, as discouraged, and we have the hope of Christ. We need to have the courage, and the kindness to share the love of Christ, not all the answers; not all the solutions. Jesus loves them. He is willing to embrace them. He died for their sins and we’ll embrace them as well. Well, we will pray with you to that end. You can find more about Eve’s Angels and Annie’s story on the website.

Anny Donewald, thank you so much for your time and I will pray that God will encourage your heart. This is an ongoing reminder for us, men and women to see the world through Christ’s eyes. People are broken; they’re hurt; they’re wounded. You and I share the gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived; He died; He was buried, that He came back from the dead to demonstrate His power over life; He grants life eternal to any and all who put their trust in Christ, and Christ alone. Maybe this is an area for you to consider. Maybe you need to look in your own neighborhoods and see, could Eve’s Angels’ help you? Could you reach out to those men and women who are in the sex industry? This is Michael Easley inContext.

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