- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 28, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0061582069
- Source: Publisher
Rachel Lloyd, after winding up as a victim of commercial sexual exploitation as a teen, eventually breaks free of this life, striving to help other girls in a similar situation. She forms GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services), an organization founded to provide emotional support, life counseling, to young girls who are victims of sexual exploitation.
The majority of the citizens of this country, myself included, are completely oblivious to the sheer number of young women, in many cases still children, who get sucked into the sex trade world. The statistics Lloyd provides are absolutely shocking. According to a 2001 University of Pennsylvania study, 200,000-300,000 children are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation in this country, each year. Our country, not some third-world country. A country in which we are granted freedoms and rights unlike any other.
In her memoir, Lloyd focuses on the factors that drive young women to this lifestyle, including abuse of all varieties, including sexual, physical and mental. To supplement this information, Lloyd gives examples of her own experiences, and the experiences of those girls aided by GEMS, that relates to each of the risk factors.
Frighteningly, our media perpetuates this abuse of women with songs praising the role of a pimp. Lloyd herself is outraged when watching the Academy Awards to learn that the song “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp” wins Best Original Song. Here is just a sampling of the lyrics:
Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin’
Gotta keep my hustle tight, makin’ change off these women, yeah
Lloyd does share stories of success, of young women who have freed themselves from this life, to become successful, respectful, women. Lloyd herself is a prime example, yet unfortunately not nearly enough women have access to an organization like GEMS. They are unable to free themselves of the abuse from their family members, from the pimp who profits from their trade.
The author provides the reader a no-holds-barred look at her own life, even admitting to the fact that, unlike many of the women her organization supports, she made the decision to enter the life. Many of the women stuck in the sex trade have no other options, were forced to participate by family members, were unknowingly recruited by a pimp, etc. She admits to using the information she gains from these girls in order to understand what happened to her, hoping that if she is able to explain how/what happened to them, she could discover how she wound up in the life as well.
The success of Lloyd’s organization is largely due to the judge-free advice they give to each of the girls they assist. The don’t find reasons to blame the girls for their actions, accuse them of choosing this life. This young women, some as young as eleven and twelve years old, are victims. Victims to the world they were forced to grow up in, a world they cannot easily escape. GEMS provides them with the healthy attention they are unable to get elsewhere, a shoulder to cry on, a female mentor to look up to.
This is not a book that I recommend anyone attempt to read in one sitting. I myself had to take frequent breaks to bring myself back to the real world, look at my children and see their happiness. Recalling then that many of the young women referenced in this book don’t have that opportunity to step away into a happier life. That said, I think this is a book that should be read by women from all walks of life: mothers, young teens, social workers and the like. It is a book that will continue to haunt me, will reappear in my mind when I’m walking through the streets of a large city, spotting young victims in the street. Highly recommended.
A special thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to visit the tour page and check out the other stops in the tour.
Rachel Lloyd testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law on the commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children.