Shop Small With Us on November 30!

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As some of you may know this Saturday, November 30th, is Small Business Saturday!  With the masses flocking to malls and retail chains this Friday and the cyber world heating up next Monday for a flurry of Christmas shopping, small businesses have historically struggled to keep up.  This Saturday marks the 4th Annual Small Business Saturday where people are encouraged to “shop small” and support their local community at neighborhood small businesses.  

That Grace Restored represents a special portion of our local community here in Atlanta.  Please join us in supporting women exiting the commercial sex industry on November 30th by visiting our Etsy shop to purchase beautiful handmade journals for holiday gifts or your personal enjoyment!  



5 Myths About Girls Working in the Sex Industry 

Historically there have been many stereotypes surrounding women working in the commercial sex industry.  These presuppositions have fostered misunderstandings and judgment about why and how women enter the life, and have hindered the correction of injustices that keep women from leaving prostitution.  Here are the top 5 myths about girls working in the sex industry, and our take on how to properly adjust our mentality as fellow human beings in order to support them in moving forward. 

 1.     All working girls are in the life because they are promiscuous

This may seem like a dated stereotype, but it is one that still impedes the thinking of many people on the issue of prostitution.  Many people look at working girls who present themselves in an overtly sexual way in an attempt to attract clients as immoral women who were never brought up the right way or choose to be rebellious in order to fulfill their desires.  In actuality, girls working in the industry have entered the life for a variety of reasons.  Some are taken by force and made to work selling their bodies, others are coerced by men acting as their boyfriend and promising them love in exchange for their work, while still other women face push factors such as poverty or drug addictions that drive them into the life. 

 2.    Every working girl has a pimp.

Many people envision a Hollywood version of a pimp controlling girls working in the sex industry, setting up meetings with clients, beating them and taking all their money when they think of prostitution.  While unfortunately this is the case for some women and can lead to vast complications in helping a girl to leave the life, a survivor of the life cites as little as 30-50% of industry girls in Atlanta as working under a pimp.  Many working girls operate independently, handling their own clients and finances.

 3.    Every girl is trafficked into the life at a young age.

On the flipside of the stereotype that all girls choose to work in the industry to be sexually active, a popular belief following the rise in awareness of domestic sex trafficking is that all girls in the life are victims of trafficking.  It is important to make the distinction that there are girls who have been trafficked, and there are girls who chose to enter the life for their own reasons, usually driven by push factors.  Victims of trafficking can be defined as those taken into a different city or state for the purpose of selling their services.  However, whether a girl was trafficked or not, all women in the commercial sex industry are victims of exploitation.  Whether a girl was forced, coerced, tricked or pushed into the industry based on her own sense of necessity, their pimps, customers and even the system’s lack of provision for their appropriate reintegration into society make them victims in need of support. 

 4.    Every girl in the industry is from a poor minority neighborhood.

A common conception about domestic working girls is that they are of a minority race and come from poverty.  This is not true in every case.  In Atlanta girls in the industry range come from every race, socioeconomic status, family background and geographic location.  Upper middle class white girls may be as susceptible as an African American girl living on food stamps.  Poverty can be an influential push factor and it is a well-known fact in the United States that minorities are the most likely to suffer from impoverishment.  However, not getting enough attention at home, struggling with self worth and even seeking acceptance from friends or a boyfriend make upper class girls easy targets for those seeking to exploit them.  The issue is not isolated; it is prevalent citywide. 

 5.    Every girl deserves what she gets after choosing to work in the sex industry.

As we have already established, girls working in this industry come from all walks of life and enter into the commercial sex industry for a vast array of reasons that do not always place responsibility on them. It is important that we recognize the exploitation at the hands of others who would seek to do evil.  We must acknowledge the harsh realities of life that leave some girls feeling they have no better choice than to work in the industry.  Above all, we must be compassionate to women who are suffering not only from the decisions others have made for them, but also for women who have made their own choices, and graciously extend support for them to start again. 


Rebuilding Relationships: a philosophy of work

Women across the city of Atlanta are facing problems of marginalization and exploitation through their entrapment in the commercial sex industry.  This form of bondage is the result of manipulation, force or necessity and without fail leads to a loss of dignity.  Every woman’s story is different, and yet each one faces similarly complicated barriers to leaving the life.  Inability to find employment, qualify for housing or develop a trusted network of support prevents many women from moving on to a new future. 

 How do we, as a non-profit organization working with women in Atlanta who have been marred and abused by the industry, make steps to facilitate true and lasting change?  How do we address the systemic injustices and unforgiving barriers that our women face every day? 

 At Serenity’s Steps, the parent organization of That Grace Restored, we operate with a philosophy of ministry informed by asset based community development principles.  Models of community development can usually be cast into one of two categories: needs based and asset based.  Needs based community development focuses on creating programs that address perceived needs of a community, while those who practice asset based community development act as facilitators to assist a community in identifying their own problems as well as the assets already available that can be enhanced to develop sustainable solutions. 

 One of the most important ways we strive to incorporate asset based community development principles into our philosophy of ministry is our prioritization of offering assistance to women through authentic relationships.  Community development is at its heart about the healing of broken relationships.   Women exploited by the commercial sex industry suffer from broken relationships with themselves, others and many times God. 

 We work alongside women to assist them in identifying and utilizing their gifts and skills to reach their goals.  By this method we strive to reaffirm their dignity and worth by involving them in the process of their recovery.  Although structured programs do offer many women a secure place in which to heal and redirect their life, we offer women the chance to make their own decisions in a supportive environment.  In this way, a woman’s relationship with herself begins to heal. 

 We started That Grace Restored not only as a way to continue facilitating recovery of personal worth and dignity, but as a path by which the relationship between our women and the outside world can be repaired.  Women coming out of the commercial sex industry are often marginalized and judged because of their past.  The system in its nature works against them.  This affects their ability to find employment and to enter into a fully socially integrated life.  That Grace Restored seeks to show the world the intrinsic beauty of these women and their strong creative and managerial abilities, even as they prepare to move on to other careers through their work with us. 

 Finally, although we impose no requirements on the women we work with to attend church or to accept Christ, we see our friendships with them as a chance to share the gospel through our actions.  It is our hearts’ desire to see many women come to know Christ and the true joy of His healing in their lives.  That Grace Restored offers a platform to live out our love for them as we work together to run a business, develop new product and walk together in this crucial part of their transition. 

 The healing of broken relationships, walking alongside women as facilitators rather than implementers of a program and affirming their personal dignity are all key principles of community development.  Serenity’s Steps and That Grace Restored seek to embody these values and prioritize the needs and desires of the women with whom we work in every decision we make.  We are all on the journey together.  Please continue to partner with us in prayer and visit our Etsy shop to support our women by purchasing their handmade journals. 


Be Still

I hold my breath as I ascend the whitewashed stairs behind the man who, without knowing it, has the power to decide if this event even happens.  For weeks we have been working on pulling together important details for the launch party of That Grace Restored.  As a small non-profit still building our reputation in the city and low on funds, in this stage we rely largely on the generosity of others to make big things happen.  I suppress the hope that dares to well up in my fast beating heart. 

 We need this event.  Our girls deserve it.  We’ve all worked so hard.  From building the letterpress to putting in countless hours making paper out of unwanted scraps, from meeting with graphic designers to creating a website, from sitting with the girls in coffee shops discussing their next move to meeting with friends and churches in an attempt to share their story, we’ve all worked hard.  We all need this.

 Rewind two weeks.  After our team meeting we all knew what we had to do.  Like soldiers running into battle we charged down our list of tasks.  Make the guest list, design the invitations, make hundreds of sheets of paper for the invitations, coordinate food with the chef, find the event space, plan the décor.  We ran like a 100m sprinter into what we knew deep down was a marathon.  And when you start out too fast on a long run, inevitably you will cramp.

 Our cramps were our saving grace.  The Lord was at work far above and beyond what we even imagined at the time.  We were all guilty, as so many of us are, of running to compete in a world that says keep going, no time to slow down!  Our first and second plans for the event space fell through.  How could we have a launch party with nowhere to hold it?

 When Leroy contacted me and suggested looking into Ambient Plus Studios I admit I was extremely skeptical.  I almost didn’t send the email.  They rent their space for thousands of dollars, and we desperately needed it donated.  We began to discuss pushing the event back to January in fear that we wouldn’t find the right place in time.

 God was still working.  Early last week we all came to the same conclusion in what can only be explained as the stirring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  We realized individually and then collectively that we had been running a marathon as if it was a sprint.  We had been running in our own strength.  We put striving in front of faith, and we desperately needed to slow down, be still, and know that He is God. 

 I hold my breath as I ascend the whitewashed stairs behind the man who, without knowing it, has the power to decide if this event even happens.  I whisper a prayer, asking Jesus to open his heart in generosity.  After I show him a journal, beautifully handcrafted with our paper, and a brief tour, he offers us the space free of cost.  In that moment God is glorified as I can see in his eyes and hear in his voice that he was ready to donate the space before I even set foot in the door.  While we do depend physically on the generosity of others, ultimately, it is God who makes all things happen.