These girls think it’s temporary and there is a way out, but stick in that job for a long time. This vicious circle is difficult to escape because the victims of human trafficking and sexual slavery have nobody to talk to, nobody who can give them a bit of concern, compassion or word of support.
Rachel Lloyd herself was a victim of sexual slavery. She recollects she was incredibly traumatized but could not tell anybody. She was afraid to be judged in a society full of stereotypes.
She breaks stereotypes, gives voice to women and transforms public perception
In 1998 Rachel started Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), the organization to help human trafficking survivors. She had no money, no idea how to move. She started it on a kitchen table with a borrowed computer and $30.
Today she is the founder and executive director of the largest organization in New York that offers various supportive services for girls and women who have experienced domestic trafficking and sexual exploitation.
GEMS provides women exiting the commercial sex industry with everything that helps them get back on track – crisis shelters, long-term housing, psychological aid, counselling for education, skills sets, certification and employment training.
But most important things GEMS gives to the sex-trafficking victims are a sense of community and unconditional love. That is what Rachel herself never had when transitioned from human slavery.
She was born in Britain and grew up in incredibly poor single-parent family. Her mom had been a supportive woman until she got married to an abusive alcoholic. The woman started drinking heavily and Rachel dropped out of school at 13 and began working.
We were treated as criminals in the society
Her family counselor told the girl that by 16 she would be pregnant, in jail, on drugs or dead. She felt she needed to leave parental home as soon as possible. The neighbouring Germany seemed to be a way out and a better life.
A better life turned out to be a nightmare. The girl was sexually exploited, got no money and her pimp nearly killed her twice.
It was a miracle the girl managed to escape. With the help of church she got a nanny’s job, food, clothes and shelter.
The bitter experience made her help all survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
She came to New York when she was 23, and started working with women coming from sex industry in correctional facilities and on the streets.
“As a survivor myself, I realized I had a lot in common with those women, we had similar stories – we were treated as criminals in the society, people refused to help us,” she says.
In 20 years the organization grew to an essential nationally recognized facility for young women at risk of sexual exploitation. It breaks stereotypes, gives voice to women and transforms public perception.
“It can take years to prepare them to get out, be free and fully integrate back into society. The girls must say they would never ever go back, not for the million dollars,” Rachel states.
“I’m proud to be a role model for my girls,” Rachel concludes.
Featured image: Instagram