Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, also known as GEMS, is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the young survivors who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. The mission of GEMS is to empower girls and young women, ages 12–24, to exit the commercial sex industry, cope with the pain and hurt they have suffered, and go on to have full (and happy) productive lives.
GEMS was founded in 1998 by Rachel Lloyd. Lloyd, herself, is a woman who had been sexually exploited as a teenager and escaped her pimp. Ms. Lloyd came to the U.S in 1997 as a missionary to work with adult women exiting prostitution. While working with adult women in correctional facilities and on the streets, Ms. Lloyd observed the overwhelming need for services for young women being sexually exploited who were being ignored by traditional social service agencies.
Today, Lloyd serves as the executive director for GEMS, an organization that she started at her kitchen table. Rachel Lloyd has also earned her GED and won full scholarships to college and a graduate program. She has earned her BA in psychology from Marymount Manhattan College and her MA in applied urban anthropology from the City College of New York. To date, GEMS has helped hundreds of young women and girls, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and to develop to their full potential.
I was first introduced to GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) by fellow blogger The F$%K it List when she posted about the “Very Young Girls” video.
“Very Young Girls is an exposé of the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in New York City as they are sold on the streets by pimps and treated as adult criminals by police. The film follows barely adolescent girls in real time, using vérité and intimate interviews with them, documenting their struggles and triumphs as they seek to exit the commercial sex industry. The film also uses startling footage shot by pimps themselves, giving a rare glimpse into how the cycle of exploitation begins for many women.”
Immediately after viewing this trailer, I needed to see the documentary (if you subscribe to Netflix you can watch it there or order it from the GEMS shop.)
After watching this powerful movie, I felt the need to learn more about this organization and the work they do. After, visiting the website I learned that, though, GEMS is based in New York City and the agency serves girls and young women in New York State, there are many different ways I/we can help raise awareness in our areas, also. Or if you like you can contribute to the work GEMS does through donation. Just visit the GEMS website for more information on both options.
I wanted to also share that GEMS founder, Rachel Lloyd has written the book, Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself.
The book chronicles the life of Lloyd from her young life (one filled with abuse) to how she became a victim of commercial sexual exploitation and how she finally broke free of not only her past but the pain. She takes us on her journey to help others like herself and shares the vision that lead her create the nationally recognized, and acclaimed, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, which is now one of the largest providers of services to commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked youth in the US.
I suggest with all my being that you read this book but, I warn you it is a heartbreaking read. Girls Like Us is a real and raw look at the way women ‘in the life’ (a term I learned from the book) live on a daily basis. I had tears in my eyes just reading the Prologue.
GEMS has teamed up with MTVU to create the “Against Our Will” campaign (below is one of the videos):
To learn more about GEMS:
visit the GEMS website
Follow on Twitter: @GEMSGIRLS
Like on Facebook: Girls are not for Sale
Heels & Hope is a bi-monthly feature that spotlights non-profit organizations that are dedicated to empowering women and girls.
Share with your girlfriends!