Inspiring Person: Rachel Lloyd, 37, is the Executive Director and Founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Service (GEMS).
What She Does Now: GEMS is an organization that serves girls and young women who have been victims of the commercial sex trafficking industry. By providing a safe place for young women to stay, as well as a community offering education, guidance, and help with life skills, Rachel has helped hundreds of girls, ages 12-24 to exit the commercial sex trafficking industry and realize their full potential.
Where She Came From: A survivor of the commercial sex trafficking industry herself, Rachel is a U.K. native who came to the United States at 22 after spending her teenage years in what she calls “The Life.” She dropped out of high school to support herself, and by the time she was 17 became sucked into the world of stripping and prostitution in Germany.
Her Perspective: An excerpt from Girls Like Us, Rachel’s memoir about her past and the work she has accomplished since starting GEMS. Here, she talks about her first year at GEMS:
“I cry for hours at home and have fitful nights of little sleep. My nightmares resurface as my own pain is repeated to me, magnified a thousand times. It feels insurmountable. How can you save everyone? How can you rescue them? How do you get over your pain? How do you ever feel normal?
I don’t have many answers, for myself or for the girls. So I listen and listen, doing my best to learn as much as I can, to make the connections, to be open and honest about my own experiences, to be sincere, to love them and not judge. And while that isn’t much to offer, it becomes the basis for some amazing relationships.”
Get Inspired: You can read more about Rachel and GEMS by purchasing or checking out her book, Girls Like Us, from the library. The GEMS website also offers a variety of ways to get involved.
Make Lemonade Today: Rachel emphasizes the importance of language when speaking about this sensitive topic. She says referring to these young women as “child prostitutes” isn’t accurate or appropriate, since it denotes choice in the matter. Rather than saying “child prostitute,” say that a girl was “in the commercial sex trafficking industry.”