Traumatic childhood led woman into porn industry

Traumatic childhood led woman into porn industry

Several News Corp media outlets, including The Herald Sun and The Queensland Times, have published a story about American woman Deanna Lynn’s experience in the porn industry, the traumatic childhood that led her there, and how she escaped.

Deanna’s journey of triumph over trauma is one of ten inspiring stories featured in Volume 3 of Jas Rawlinson’s ‘Reasons to Live One More Day, Every Day’ and is included in full below.

While Deanna had a happy ending, unfortunately for many women who end up in porn and prostitution, this is not the case. We hope that Deanna’s story will shed light on the abusive and exploitative nature of the sex industry, so that women in similar positions are also able to gain the support they need to break free and rebuild their lives.

Deanna’s story as told to Jas Rawlinson

WARNING: Graphic content

“Don’t be a baby, Deanna.”

Those are the words that were spoken to me, at just five years old, as I was called into a bedroom and forced to watch pornography for the very first time.

It’s a day I remember so vividly, even more than three decades later; like the way my throat burned as I screamed and begged to ‘make it stop.’

And most of all, the way that my mother’s hands gripped tightly around my face as she forced me back toward the screen, laughing at my horror and inability to understand the ‘normal’ things that she was trying to show me.

Sadly, this is just one of many traumatic moments that I experienced as a child growing up with an alcoholic mother diagnosed with depression.

Whether she was forcing me to watch horror movies and pornography, or screaming at my sister and I to come and clean up after she’d self-harmed again in desperation, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. As a result, disease, death, and dysfunction never seemed abnormal to me.

At just six years of age, I was already bringing lingerie and cigarettes to school to impress my friends, and thought nothing of telling all my classmates about sex — not knowing that this wasn’t considered ‘normal’ playground talk.

Unfortunately, ‘talking’ was not enough for me. I also wanted to walk the talk. So, one day, I decided to take part in a ‘strip show’ with some of our neighbourhood kids. With no supervision and only a vague idea of what we were doing, I joined in on acting out some of the things I’d seen in my mother’s videos at home.

“OK Deanna,” called out one of the older girls, as she pointed a polaroid camera at me and a kindergarten boy named *Mark. “You guys can start making porn now — just like in the movies.”

I hate to admit this, but I was very unaware at that time if what we were doing was actually wrong. I had been brainwashed for so long that I wasn’t sure who to believe about human sexuality. We didn’t know what we were doing; we were just kids trying to mimic the things we were being exposed to.

And all I could think about was how proud my mum was going to be.

It sounds shocking, but how could I have known any better as a girl growing up in a home where her mother used sexuality as a tool for getting what she wanted? (Usually, used as a weapon for keeping my stepdad from leaving her.)

That said, as dysfunctional as life was with my mother, I was still devastated when she passed away; a day that came just weeks before my eleventh birthday. This began a downward spiral, leading me into a world of stripping, drugs, and addiction.

By age 17, I was parading around in skimpy outfits for a local restaurant, and by 18 I was living on and off the streets, prostituting, running with gangs, and hooked on drugs. Worst of all, I was facing real jail time.

It was in this moment, as I was literally minutes from being transported to the detention centre, that my agent ‘swooped in’ to save me.

“Deanna, I can help you get out of this and cover your charges,” he said. “If you want to start over, I can get you a job in California working as a porn star. You’ll be making way more money than you are now. Honestly, it’ll be great.”

It took me only moments to make a decision.

I’m already selling my body — why not do it in a safe environment where I don’t have to worry every night about being murdered by strangers? I thought. Plus, I’ll have the chance to become famous too!

I turned to my agent and smiled. I was about to be a porn star. It was all I’d dreamt of since I was a girl.


For a while I definitely felt like I’d ‘made it’. I went from streets and motels, to having my own chauffeur, to living in a mansion and being photographed at red carpet parties.

As a porn performer who was starring in ‘award-winning’ movies, I soon got used to being treated like a celebrity. I had fame. Fans. Status. And most importantly, I’d gotten rid of ‘Deanna’.

As I would later find out, however, it doesn’t really work that way. There is only so long you can suppress your true self; there’s only so long you can put a mask over the pain and trauma that you’ve experienced.

On the day that this happened, I was put in a room with four very large men. I remember it so vividly. In the words of production, they were to ‘degrade’ me. And not just that; they were to degrade me for being ‘little and white’.

Before I could stop it from happening, tears began sliding down my face and my body became non-compliant. In an effort to hide both the physical and emotional pain, I turned my face away, trying to bury it in a pillow.

Suddenly, one of my male co-stars took a step backwards, walking off set and shaking his head. “I can’t do this,” he said.

To me, this was such an unfamiliar experience that I couldn’t make sense of it at first. In the world of porn, no one shied away from ‘harder’ content. I’d once even seen an award-winning director point to a woman on set, before turning to the male performers and telling them to “Step on her neck.”

“Get the reaction you need,” he’d noted. “But only film her face because we can’t sell content like that.”

The reality was, we dissociated so much that our male co-stars often had to go to extremes just to get us to feel or express anything. And I was no different.

For a long time, I sold myself to this character. Someone to help others escape from their own forms of brokenness. But after so many years, I finally realised I could no longer keep on playing this version of myself; I could no longer deal with the abuse, dysfunction, and addiction.

By this point, suicide was beginning to feel like my only option. I needed a way out of this industry, but I had no idea how to make it happen. My whole life had been about being exploited and objectified — what other ‘experience’ did I have?

It was around this time that I found myself in a local church, and on that day, I found something I’d never before experienced: a sense of community. For the first time, I began to see a snapshot of what life outside the industry could look like; specifically, people who genuinely wanted nothing from me, and who were instead interested in my goals and supporting me to achieve them.

It was unfamiliar and completely new territory, yet, it got me thinking. What if I could have people like this in my life daily?

Slowly, I started to make inroads to change my life — including leaving my then-partner — and as I attended more networking and community events, I grew in confidence and began exploring my entrepreneurial skills more deeply. Eventually, I got my own business off the ground, and for the first time in my life I became a productive member of society.

Yet, I still felt broken and hollow.

After a decade of being sold from one human to another and constantly being reinforced daily that my entire worth was in my sexuality, it’s no wonder. The problem, however, was that I had no idea how to move beyond merely surviving. Once again I fell into a dark space, with no idea of how to get out.

If it weren’t for a phone call I received around this time, I’m not sure I would be here today.

On that night, as I spoke with the director of an organisation named Refuge for Women, I began to consider that, maybe, just maybe, life really could be different.

What if I could live in a place that was safe; somewhere I didn’t have to strive every second of every day to keep my life afloat? Somewhere that I could heal from my trauma instead of running away?

The more I allowed myself to ask these questions, the more possibilities began to well inside of me.

So, on that night in 2011, I packed everything I owned into two suitcases, zipped them tightly, and slipped into bed; anxious but at the same time filled with a flicker of hope. For the first time in my life, I was about to run towards something instead of continuing to run away.

The next day, I left for Kentucky. I’m elated to say that it was the day I chose life. And although it was the first of many hard decisions to come, ultimately, it led me to a life that moved beyond addiction and struggles, and into a space where I could learn how to make decisions that kept me living free from trauma.

Today, I’m a Certified orthopaedic Specialist, an author, the manager of a global non-profit, and a wife and mother to two twin girls. After years of wondering if I’d know how to be a good mum after all the trauma of my youth, I’m proud to say I am. Healing is not easy, but I did the deep inner work before becoming a parent to identify the lies and belief systems that were holding me back.

You often hear that hurt people hurt people. While I have found this to be true, I also know that healed people, help people. I practice compassion for others while also using wisdom to put boundaries in place that protect my family.

Life is truly worth living and there is freedom on the other side of pain. Find your tribe, lean in, and live free.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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