Though the highs and lows of the sex industry are often the most highlighted chapters of victims’ stories, the persisting untold story is that of integrating: taking the healing and recovery and figuring out what it looks like in “real” life. The same challenge was the reality for Deanna Lynn, and one that so beautifully and holistically paints the image of her redemption.
As she left the pornography industry and turned a corner at the top of her career, Deanna’s story has been widely told––from video testimonies to her own book (Purchased: Leaving the Sex Trade)––and her willingness to share her testimony has undoubtedly made her a leader and a beacon of hope. Yet, her more recent chapter of healing is one that carries just as much power, and one that she is crafting into a second book.
In fact, unlike many others, it wasn’t addiction and recovery, but a desire for integration that brought her to Refuge initially.
“I had done everything that the world had told me. I had gone back to school––that’s what helped me to get out of the industry––I opened a gym, a health and wellness studio in Santa Clarita, California; I was going to all these networking events and really trying to make a name for myself outside the industry. The problem was I kept encountering my past,” she explained the journey that brought her to Refuge. “There really weren’t any options for me. I didn’t need rehab––I had good recovery from drugs and alcohol and I was part of a church plant… but when I left church I didn’t know how to live all that out. So where do you go to recover from the sex industry?”
So, five years into sobriety but still looking for fuller recovery, she discovered Refuge, with just one house open in Kentucky at the time, as the answer to her dilemma. Days after her arrival, her neighbors invited her over for Christmas day; a pleasantly surprising signal of the relationships to come that would bring such healing.
“I got to be included and part of a family,” Deanna emphasized the importance of familial relationships and how crucial it was to her growth. “Instead of feeling like a project… I had this place of belonging. I had a new family.”
Learning in the context of loving family was not only monumental for Deanna’s more holistic recovery, but laid the foundation for further, deeper healing, and the family life Deanna has recently stepped into.
“I couldn’t tell the difference in my relationships as to who was genuine, nor did I know how to have a healthy relationship… I knew that if I didn’t figure this piece out, it was going to be the death of me.”
This conviction is what originally led her to Refuge, and what enabled her to build her own community, and eventually her relationship with her now-husband of nearly five years. “The more that I started living by the values that I wanted in my life, the more I started attracting people who lived by those values.”
Deanna’s journey in meeting and growing her relationship with her husband is a moving story in itself, but the more recent challenge and redemption was in that of her becoming a mother. She and her husband welcomed twin girls into their world nearly a year ago, with no shortage of new healing and joy gained along the way.
This chapter, however, was preceded by two years of dual-diagnosed infertility and truly began in a season of wrestling with how to embrace her past in a new way.
“My God tells me to remember what I have been delivered from. And it’s in that remembering that I remain grateful,” she recalled. “How was I supposed to integrate these two different parts of myself, and not be ashamed, but not be proud of it either?”
The answer was found within a returning to her younger versions of herself, from infancy to childhood to teenage years. At every stage, she returned and met herself there, and found a way to lay down self-hatred to instead pick up nurturing.
She recalled the gentle voice of God reminding her that, even in light of her accomplishments in seminary and wherever they may take her as a potential ‘notable alumnae,’ that “Deanna, you were notable to me then, too.” Her mentor echoed this sentiment with the reality that “God loved her, too,” speaking about the former version of Deanna she had moved so far from. As she embraced these truths, she found new ways to love and nurture her former self, despite whatever traumas or challenges.
“I took each part of myself by the hand and said, ‘no wonder you felt that way. No wonder you made those decisions.’” In gaining this love for her former self, her healing came full-circle and prepared her for what it meant to be a mother.
“I’m so grateful that I got to go through that before having children. Because when I was granted children, I get to love them so much. And I get to step into a part of myself that I always was, I just never knew. I never knew I could be so loving and nurturing.”
This nurturing is only one way she has experienced the presence of God in a new way. Deanna expressed that even in the exhaustion of early motherhood, she has gotten to redefine the way she connects with God, and how she gets to live in that reality.
“Everything [God] had ever taught me was just a way of life,” she spoke of her intellectual spiritual pathways that made space for an entirely new rhythm. “It really became more about us living this life together. I just felt like he was showing me that I was living into the promises now. Instead of reading about him and learning… I was tangibly seeing the evidence, the fruit of our relationship. Just like how children are the fruit of mine and my husband’s relationship, they are also the fruit of mine and God’s relationship.”
This literal fruit, in addition to what God had already grown in her life, is a powerful example she now gets to extend to others who may have had similar backgrounds; it has become her answer to the question that long persisted in her mind as well as so many other women coming from the sex industry: “Who is going to love me?”
Her reply now is a recognition that the life she’s built is one that doesn’t even slightly resemble her former, and the same can be true for anyone else. It’s this process of integration that she is so passionate about, and that fills the pages of her second book, which she hopes to release this year as a celebratory marker of ten years of freedom.
“One good decision leads to another, and eventually you’re just living free,” Deanna explained where she has come, to such radical new life, with a powerful simplicity of the gospel itself. “It’s not about breaking free anymore. I’m not sitting here trying to release myself from bondage after bondage, I’m living in the freedom of my God.”