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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora