News / USA

    Former Prostitute Rescues Girls from Sex Trade

    Rachel Lloyd provides housing, education and job training for exploited teens

    After escaping a life of prostitution, Rachel Lloyd (left) established Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York City to help young women leave the sex trade.
    After escaping a life of prostitution, Rachel Lloyd (left) established Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York City to help young women leave the sex trade.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Faiza Elmasry

    Rachel Lloyd understands why and how young girls become prostitutes. She was once once herself.

    "I grew up with a lot of trauma and dysfunction in my family," she says. "So by the time I was like 13, I dropped out of school. I was working full time in factories and restaurants. I began to model, a kind of nude modeling, so I was already on the periphery of the sex industry."

    Looking for a new start, Lloyd left her home in Britain for Germany. She ended up working as a hostess in a Munich sex club at the age of 17. After three suicide attempts and one effort by her boyfriend/pimp to kill her, she found shelter in a local American church. She eventually immigrated to the United States and vowed to not only change her life, but also to help young women in need.

    Lloyd recounts her story in "Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale; An Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself." Lloyd began that healing process by going back to school when she was 23.



    "Once I started getting my formal education, my confidence increased and I began to learn stuff. I got my undergrad in psychology and my grad degree in applied urban anthropology," says Lloyd. "I knew I needed that to have a level of credibility. Otherwise, I would have always been seen as ‘former prostitute Rachel Lloyd who has a story.'"

    GEMS

    In 1998, Lloyd decided to take action against the problem that had almost destroyed her life.

    She founded Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York City. The nonprofit has grown from her small apartment to two offices and 25 full-time staff. A 2008 documentary called "Very Young Girls," highlights her work.

    "The core of our work is the direct services to young girls and women," Lloyd says. "That looks like street outreach, outreach into detention centers, group homes, anywhere we know that there are young people at risk."

    GEMS offers these young people not only a safe refuge and hot meals, but also job training, education and unconditional support. Raising public awareness about the plight of teen prostitutes and changing social attitudes, Lloyd says, are critical to ending the problem.

    "If you feel like your family, your community, your place of employment is always going to look at you as a prostitute and you’re scorned and ashamed for that, then you might as well stay because what’s the point of trying to move forward, if people are always going to look down at you?"

    Rachel Lloyd, founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), receives the Reebok Human Rights Award.
    Rachel Lloyd, founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), receives the Reebok Human Rights Award.

    GEMS representatives - young women who've made the transition from the street to a new life - go to conferences, detention centers, local high schools and churches to talk about their experiences.

    "They are the best advocates, the best peer mentors for girls who may be nervous about speaking up or ashamed or feel like they can never tell anyone," says Lloyd.

    Making changes

    GEMS also advocates for legislative change. In 2008, the organization played a key role in successfully lobbying New York legislators.

    "We actually passed the first law in the country - The Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act - which means that young people under the age of 16 can’t be charged with an act of prostitution," Lloyd says. "It becomes a child protective issue as opposed to a juvenile detention issue."

    Lloyd would like to see every state in the country pass similar legislation.

    Kudos


    In recognition of her efforts, Lloyd has received numerous honors, including the Reebok Human Rights Award.

    "This award is actually recognizing probably for the very first time publically that the commercial sexual exploitation is a human rights issue," she said.

    For Lloyd, what’s more rewarding than any recognition she receives are the success stories of those young girls, when they leave the streets, get an education, find a job and start a new life.



    You May Like

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora