Refuge gives former sex industry workers new start

Its an industry that some consider seedy, others big business.

Strip clubs and erotic dancing are part of the sex industry, generating $97 billion a year.

As Amber Philpott reports, in central Kentucky one organization is working to get women out of the clubs and into a different life, by giving them a place of refuge.

A year ago Debra Jerue says she was living a nightmare.

"At first it seems glamorous and fun and then within a few years you start to see the nightmare of it, and you start to seeing how stuck you are in it," said Jerue.

Jerue is talking about life as a stripper.

Her journey into the underground world of strip clubs and the sex industry began when she was 22 and lasted nearly eight years.

"I was a dancer, I was a severe drug addict and alcoholic," said Jerue.

"There are more women employed today in the sex industry in the state of Kentucky than ever before," said Cindy Warr, the Director of Development with Refuge for Women.

Refuge for Women has its offices in Lexington.

Its a ministry in central Kentucky that works to get women out of the clubs and into a new life.

"So they can come for up to a year at no cost to them and find healing from the abuse and trauma from what they have gone through and experienced in the sex industry," said Warr.

In three years the first refuge for women home has already served 56 women, half of them from Kentucky.

We aren't disclosing its location in order to protect the women in the program.

Soon there will be a second location in another county.

The soon to be remodeled 118 year old home will house women looking to change their lives too.

"We want to help them basically start again, most of them have given up on themselves and dreams,"said Warr.

Many times the women find their way to Refuge for Women by way of another ministry that actually goes into the strip clubs around Lexington and other parts of the country providing a hot meal and a way out for the dancers.

For Debra Jerue it was her wake up call.

"There was some women coming into my club for over a year and I started realizing that there was a way out," said Jerue.

She doesn't like to think about what life would have been like had she stayed, simply because she believes she would be dead.

Soon the second house on the hill will open and become a beacon of hope for other women like Debra.

One year later she is considered a success story, learning to live again.

"I smile more, and I'm happy. I'm happy I have my freedom," said Jerue.

Refuge for Women is a faith based non profit group that is funded through private donations.

It cost $110 a day to provide treatment and housing for each woman going through the program.

Women are able to get counseling, help obtaining their GED or further their education.

The end goal is for each woman to be able to enter the workforce and take care of themselves..

Each Refuge for Women home can house about eight or nine women.

The ministry says there is a waiting list already for the new location.

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