Crissy Moran holds a pair of
drumsticks, her long, slender fingers clanking off-rhythm as she looks
up at a monitor above, following along to the directions of Guitar Hero.
smoky, lips pouty and dark brown hair flowing over her shoulders,
Moran, flanked by an all-girl band, shreds "With or Without You" on a
dimly lit stage in a bar tucked deep in the Valley. The lead singer,
blonde and doe-eyed, hits every note -- off-key. It's so bad that members
of the audience join in out of sympathy. But Moran doesn't seem to
notice, her gaze trailing off in space as if she's dreaming.
crowd of a half-dozen at the bar doesn't know what to make of the
group's music, FYI, but patrons are enraptured by the beautiful disaster
onstage. A few boos are mixed in with catcalls, and then silence.
and her "bitches," as the bar's MC repeats on the mic, are here for her
birthday. Her 26th, her girlfriends joke, taking their seats to down
Cadillac margaritas and munch onion rings. Rotating in their atmosphere,
a steady stream of hanger-on Casanovas crash like asteroids. She looks
familiar, they say.
She gets that a lot.
"He was like, OK,
take off your bra. And I was shaking. I didn't know what he was doing
at that moment. Most women in the business come from backgrounds of
sexual abuse, so for me, because I did, too, when he said that, I froze.
Crissy Moran once was one of the biggest names
in porn. She spent six years in front of the camera. At the top of her
game, she earned about $15,000 a month from her website alone. Roped
into the business after falling into a rabbit hole of abusive
boyfriends, the self-described "relationship junkie" now does penance as
an outreach specialist to women in the adult entertainment industry.
Moran works for Treasures, a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 2003 by a
former dancer to help women heal from what she calls "sexual
Moran's brokenness stems from early sexual abuse, she says, followed by a string of abusive partners.
was a relationship addict," Moran reveals, sitting in a black leather
chair at Treasures' office. "After so many of these relationships, I hit
rock bottom, because the breakups were so hard. Each one was taking
something different, or maybe the same, just more of it, and I was left
alone. After one particular breakup, I went online and I started doing
online dating. ... I was doing crazy things. I flew to New York and I
met a man; I drove my car six hours to meet a guy. I had to have
The journey into porn started in Moran's home state of
Florida, where she first started posing topless. From there, a new
boyfriend started pushing her to work "with females and himself, which I
really didn't want to do, either. He controlled my money and gave me a
very small allowance to buy whatever I wanted, but all of my money went
into his bank account."
They moved to California together, and the
relationship became abusive. Moran describes it as jailer/prisoner:
trapped and physically overpowered by her boyfriend, a mixed martial
"He would hide my car keys. ... He pulled me around
by my hair when he was angry and he punched me in the back of my head.
One time in Hawaii he got angry with me, and I ran as fast as I could to
the elevator, but before it came, he grabbed me and took me back to the
room, where he beat me. Another time I jumped out of his car and I ran
into a convenience store, yelling, 'Call the police, he's going to kill
me.' There were at least 10 people looking at me, and they watched him
carry me away. ... Nobody cared about me. My family wasn't present in my
Getting emotional, she talks about her cries for help: "It goes way back to childhood. It just felt like I didn't have anybody."
UP NEXT: Moran describes how she broke free from the cycle of abuse, and how websites are still making money off her image, but she isn't.
after years of abuse, Moran escaped the boyfriend with the aid of
friends, only to fall into the same patterns with other men. Her last
relationship with a man soured after she found out he'd visited a strip
club -- and shown topless pictures of her to his co-workers. The act of
betrayal from someone who wasn't even in the business, a "nice guy,"
crushed her. She decided to leave the business altogether and begin what
she calls a fast from men.
"As you can imagine, it's not always easy," she admits.
few months after Moran left the business, a mutual acquaintance
introduced her to Harmony Dust, a former adult dancer and founder of
Treasures, the nonprofit that would become Moran's new home.
the choice of abstinence was her own, not a mandate from Treasures.
Moran developed strict rules for herself. (She didn't just give up sex,
she says, but "any alone time with a man.") After completing six months,
Moran recently extended the fast until April, for a total of nine
Her transformation hasn't gone unnoticed by the outside world. Moran has become the public face of Treasures, with ABC's Nightline featuring her in a life-after-porn special in June 2010.
provide services to women in all areas of the industry: escorting,
street prostitution, porn, dominatrix," explains Dust, a published
author and public speaker. "We go to 170 strip clubs a year, and we
bring gifts to the women, with the message that they're loved, valued
and purposed. We're not here to convince women to leave sex work; we
don't identify ourselves as anti-sex industry. We're more for women
realizing their fullest potential and being a source of support."
part-time staffer since November, Moran oversees the nonprofit's
support group and works with its leadership team. "Now I have a sense of
who I am, more than thinking I need to be with somebody to be
somebody," she says.
strong>UP NEXT: Moran tries to take her old porn website down
But six years after her last porn shoot,
Moran's image and films live on online, on websites owned by her former
business partners. No longer a porn star in real life, yet still one
online, she refuses to take money from the sites, giving up potentially
thousands of dollars of income.
"At first it was tormenting me,"
she says of the websites. "I called my webmaster and said, 'I want to
get out of the business, take the website down,' and he said, 'No,
you're in a contract. Where do you want me to send your money?' 'I don't
want the money, just take the site down, that's all I want.' He
wouldn't take it down."
And she wouldn't take the money: "I want
to make a stand for all of these women who are getting put in this
situation and bring awareness to people who are thinking about getting
into the business. It isn't something you can easily get out of."
sex industry has evolved from a dirty little secret into one of the
economic engines of Southern California. But the true dirty little
secret of porn, Moran and Dust say, is this: Not all of these performers
are willing participants. Some live the life freely, but others live a
Crissy Moran is one of the lucky ones -- lucky to
wake up from a bad place, lucky to be strong enough to pick up the
pieces. Now she's happy, possibly for the first time in her life. She
spends her weekends at church and lights up when she talks about her new
Bible reading group. The most important thing in her life isn't the
pursuit of physical pleasure, she says, but spiritual wholeness.
birthday in the books is a symbol of growth. And while she's not quite
as young as her friends declared at the bar that night, her life is in
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front of her, and she knows what she wants. "My passion is to stay here
at this nonprofit, and keep doing whatever needs to be done. That's my
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