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After working on the streets, Kim found love

A divine change of heart finally replaced prostitution, drugs and shame

Today, Kim Den Hertog loves the Lord with all her heart.

But as a child, Kim didn’t know what love was. Adopted as a baby, she remembers only cruelty from her mother and indifference from her father.

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“I used to ask my father ‘why did you adopt me?’ and he would say to me ‘because you’re a girl and you’ve got blue eyes.’ That was it,” says the petite brunette with striking aqua eyes.

“It was just horrible. Just the shame and the embarrassment” – Kim Den Hertog

When Kim asked her father if he loved her, he said “How could someone ever love something like you?”

“He never, ever told me that he loved me. I kind of felt like a commodity,” Kim tells Eternity by phone from her property on the Gold Coast.

While her father never touched her sexually, Kim remembers being paraded in front of visitors naked when she was two or three and feeling it was dirty and wrong.

One of her deepest early traumas came from being misunderstood and punished for things she had no control over.

“I have one specific memory. I couldn’t reach the door handle to get from the lounge room to get down to the bathroom because I needed to go to the toilet. I can still remember getting something to stand on to open the door and I couldn’t hold on any more.”

When her mother came out of her bedroom and found Kim had soiled her training pants, she put the dirty pants over the little girl’s head.

“Another time I’d soiled myself as well and … mum dragged me out and she had hold of my hand and just started hosing me,” Kim recalls.

The most traumatic part of the memory was the reaction of one of the friends of her father who was hanging around the back shed.

“I was screaming, and this guy was just leaning on the car smoking a cigarette laughing at me as I was being hosed … I can picture his face and when I think of him it revolts me and I want to be sick …. It was just horrible. Just the shame and the embarrassment,” she says.

“That little girl felt so full of shame and I lived out of that shame and just felt that there was something wrong with me. Guilt says ‘I’ve done something wrong;’ shame says ‘I am wrong.’”

Kim’s drive was more to fit in with the crowd than trying to numb her feelings.

Kim’s father left home when she was eight, leaving the vulnerable little girl in the company of her older brother and his friends.

“I was about nine or ten when I started experimenting with smoking cigarettes. Mum used to smoke so I’d go and steal her smokes. And then I think I was 12 when mum just said, ‘you can start smoking,’ so I started smoking at home,” she recalls.

“When I was 13, the people I was hanging around started smoking pot, so I started smoking pot with them and then, of course, I started drinking alcohol and that became a regular thing.”

Kim says her drive was more to fit in with the crowd than trying to numb her feelings.

“I just felt accepted in that crowd. I’d never felt accepted or wanted. I always felt quite unlovable and dirty and ugly and I just felt like I didn’t fit anywhere.”

“Not feeling anything was amazing – I loved that feeling.” – Kim Den Hertog

But when she had her first injection of heroin at age 15, everything changed.

“The feeling was like I got this warm rush all over my body and it kind of washed away all emotional connection. It was the most amazing feeling I’d ever experienced to the point of killing emotion. I vomited all night because heroin has that effect where it just makes you nauseous but just not feeling anything was amazing – I loved that feeling.

“When I was out of it, my feelings of being unlovable and unaccepted and wrong and embarrassed just didn’t matter. But when I did straighten out they’d come rushing back.”

While she didn’t become a full-blown heroin addict straightaway, she started having sex with men as a way of paying for drugs – pot, acid, heroin – “anything I could get down my throat.”

So while she didn’t start working as a prostitute until she was over 30, she had been “selling my body for drugs” since she started having sex at 14 or 15.

“So when it was suggested to me ‘why don’t you work in a brothel?’ it was ‘oh yeah, why didn’t I think of that?’ It was like, ‘why don’t you go get a job at Woollies?’ ‘Oh yeah, OK! Why not?’”

“That feeling of empowerment became more addictive than the drugs themselves.” – Kim Den Hertog

Kim’s first night in a brothel proved to be a turning point in the way she thought about herself.

“It was quite a high-class place, so you wore a really nice gown … and I put on this beautiful black gown, it really was gorgeous, and the girls that were on and the guys who worked there as well went ‘wow, you’re stunning.’

“I never saw myself as attractive or beautiful, I didn’t relate any of that to me. When I put this gown on – [the compliments] seemed to me really genuine – and I was like ‘Oh wow, OK.’”

When Kim took her first client into a room, she discovered a new side of herself.

“I shifted from this powerless woman that had been striving and fighting my whole life to ‘hang on, I’ve got some power now’. That feeling of empowerment became more addictive than the drugs themselves. I loved it. I hated the sex. It made me sick, but it was a means to an end. But the empowerment of it that totally took over the actual act,” she says.

“But then the more money I had, the more heroin I bought, so it just counteracted anyway. Pretty soon, that sense of empowerment dwindled because it became a desperation again to get money for my habit. So it didn’t last very long at all.”

She hated them so much she could have easily killed one of them …

After working in various brothels on the Gold Coast and the Tweed Heads area, she ended up working at a bondage den doing things that she found disgusting.

“Some stuff that went on there was absolutely putrid, but when I was doing it – like, whipping the guys and beating them up and putting dog collars on them, really perverse stuff – I loved it; I loved beating them up.”

“Looking back, I think I must have had a sense of revenge or something to get back, but I thought ‘I’m taking it out on the wrong people.’”

At the time, Kim was enraged by her bondage clients. She hated them so much she could have easily killed one of them, such was her murderous intent.

She believes she reached such a warped and aggressive way of thinking after the death of her partner, Marcus – the only man who loved her and not abused her.

“I wanted somebody to pay for his death because I had no understanding of consequential thinking,” she says.

“We lived this full-on life. We sold drugs up and down the coast, we were both addicts –  it was highly likely that one of us was going to OD and die, but that wasn’t my thought process. It was just I was the victim. I was raging.

“As much as we lived a crazy life, he was such a beautiful man – gosh, he had a beautiful heart. He treated me so well. He’d come home and just wrap me in his arms and sing love songs to me. It seems like a normal relationship, but to me it wasn’t. He never yelled at me, he never abused me sexually, he never threatened me, he never punched me, he never raised his voice at me. He always nurtured me and held me in high esteem, he was always encouraging me to be me – just beautiful.”

“It wasn’t that I wanted to die, it was that I didn’t know how to live.” – Kim Den Hertog

After Marcus’ death Kim went back to working on the streets, feeling suicidal and totally hopeless.

“I was diagnosed as suicidal, but I don’t believe I was suicidal. It was more than I just had no hope. It wasn’t that I wanted to die, it was that I didn’t know how to live,” she says.

In the area she was working, it was obvious to everyone what she was – a drug-addicted prostitute.

“At that time, I used to get spat on. I’d had rocks thrown at me, milkshakes thrown at me – I was like a stray dog in town. A guy had come up to me in the street and spit in my face and said ‘why don’t you do something with your life, you whore?’

“I don’t remember anyone ever coming up to me and being nice to me or even approaching me because I was quite a foul-mouthed thing as well.

“I was like a rabid dog, I guess. If you came too close, I’d bite. And that was just a behaviour that I’d learnt to protect myself in the arena I was in.”

“She just loved me where I was at … It was just amazing.” – Kim Den Hertog

One day, while Kim was hanging out for heroin in a park, with a regular client with her, a woman called Debbie approached her, handed her an Easter egg and just said “Jesus loves you.”

To Kim, it was an expression of love that changed her life and her heart.

After that first encounter, Debbie would come and find her on the street and take her for coffee and chats.

“She never condemned me. I knew that she was a Christian but she never Bible-bashed me or said ‘if you don’t give your heart to Jesus you’re going to hell’ – there was none of that; it was just full love. She just loved me where I was at and demonstrated the heart of Jesus and I loved that. It was just amazing.”

Debbie’s relentless, non-judgmental, loving pursuit of Kim deposited the seeds of hope and helped her reach a point of believing that maybe there could be more to life.

“And that’s when I went to rehab. It was pretty full on because I hadn’t been straight … for years and years and years. So the withdrawal was pretty full-on, and then there was withdrawal from the ‘benzos’ because I was taking Xanax and Valium and that withdrawal can go for months. The only way I could describe how I felt would be raw, like you’ve got no skin left on your body, it’s just nerve endings.”

“I’m tearing up because I know that it was an encounter with God and he did something to my heart.” – Kim Den Hertog

Kim had detoxed before but nothing had changed in her heart, so she had gone back on drugs. This time, through therapy and Bible study, she was able to heal from her early traumas.

“Once I’d started therapy and I had a full-on supernatural encounter where I totally forgave my mum and dad,” she says.

“When I woke up in the morning I had this understanding and I remember I started crying for my dad, really hoping that he’d found Jesus before he died.”

Then she thought about a particular guy from the bondage den who she had “fully abused … and I cried even harder because I thought ‘what happened to him to get him to the point where he had to endure such abuse to have sexual release?’”

“I’m tearing up because I know that it was an encounter with God and he did something to my heart.”

The other difference with this rehab was that she could finally understand the love of God, thanks to her relationship with Marcus.

“I remember thinking ‘what was the point of seeing Marcus have these full amazing years and then dying?’ I really felt it helped me to understand the gentleness and nurturing and the love of Jesus and it made sense to me.”

I know it’s nothing like the love of God, but it gave me something to work with.” – Kim Den Hertog

“Previously, years before, I’d done a Christian rehab, but I could not fathom, even understand the love of God. I had nothing to relate it to, and then it was like, oh, I get it!

“So when I thought ‘what good was that?’ God showed me the good in that was that I was able to project the love that Marcus had shown me and relate it to God. I know it’s nothing like the love of God, but it gave me something to work with.”

Another lightbulb moment came while she was reading Numbers – her favourite Scripture. “Early on in the piece, we were reading Numbers and the Scripture that jumped out to me was 23:19:

‘God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfil?’

“I remember reading that and it was like this lightbulb went on in my head and I was like, ‘whoa, God’s not a man, God’s not human,’ and it was like ‘I can trust that. I can trust something that’s not human’… From there, God just showed me stuff and told me stuff that helped me trust him so that even when man lets me down – and they still do because that’s life – it doesn’t shatter me and leave me in this place of hopelessness because I just know God’s real. I know what he told me and what he’s promised me will come to pass because it has so far; he’s never let me down.”

Through prayer and fasting, Kim has seen her whole family restored. She has three children and six grandchildren but until a few years ago, she hadn’t seen her eldest daughter for seven years.

“I didn’t even know how to parent because I was a drug addict and I didn’t have a clue,” she says.

“I couldn’t deny that that was God.” – Kim Den Hertog

Whereas in the past she would always want to win arguments with her children through pride, now she listens to their perspective first.

“I would say that God changed my heart. I would say it was a real softening of my heart and a perspective of getting off oneself, like stop being so self-focused and me, me, me, me, me, to what can I give? Or what’s that person going through? How are they feeling right now? … How can I help them? How can I respond to them? And it feels so much better to be able to help somebody in a circumstance rather than be right.”

It was not long after realising that she forgiven her parents and the client in the bondage den that she started thinking about the girls still working the streets.

“It broke my heart and then I thought ‘I want to do something, I want to reach out to these girls’ and it took a couple of years from having that understanding for it to really come together.”

“I remember I was in church and there was a conference on and the guy that was preaching I was listening to what he was saying, and I was hit by lightning – I’ve never experienced it before – I sat bolt upright in my chair and God spoke to my heart.

“It was November three years ago and he said ‘next year you will start your ministry and there will be women’s conferences out of that. And I couldn’t deny that that was God.’”

“We visit three brothels once a fortnight and two strip clubs.”

Within a week, Kim and Debbie had come up with a name – Flawless Women – and were planning the first event.

“From November to 13 February – I wanted it around Valentine’s Day – everything just fell into place. It was miraculous. Everything was catered for. We had dresses donated to give the girls a makeover, a professional photographer donated her time to the event. We’ve had three high teas now and it never ceases to amaze me just how everything just falls into place.”

Between the conferences, Kim and her team of four – three of whom are former prostitutes – regularly visit brothels and strip clubs.

“At the moment we visit three brothels once a fortnight and two strip clubs. In the brothels we take in a home-cooked meal for the girls, we then serve it up for them and we sit with them and chat and we have formed relationships with a lot of the women.”

“A couple of them now are in counselling because we have a counsellor on board as well.

“We have more relationship with the girls in the brothels obviously because we sit down with them between clients coming.

“Strip clubs are a bit more difficult because the girls are on the floor and working but we generally go into the dressing room and we cut up fruit for them, nice big fruit platters and chocolate as well. We haven’t really spoken very much to the girls in the strip clubs but a couple of weeks ago one of the girls followed us out and was asking questions and I was able to share my testimony and it blew her mind. She started crying and said ‘I can relate to what you’re saying.’

For Kim, that short conversation is what it’s all about.

I believe that she’ll ring me. I’m just giving those little deposits of hope like what Deb did.”

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