“We need cultural change, social change – we need people’s hearts and minds to change – whether it’s the man who goes out to purchase sex because he doesn’t see anything wrong with it, the cop who arrests women and girls and believes that it’s a victimless crime, the social worker who treats the girl who walks through her doors with scorn and disgust, or just the individual who walks past the woman on the street every day and never offers her a cup of coffee or even makes eye contact because they see her as ‘less than’ them.” Rachel Lloyd, Founder and CEO of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS).
How did you get involved in the movement against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation?
I came to the US in 1997, originally working as a missionary with a very small non-profit that was working with adult women in the commercial sex industry. At that point, there really wasn’t a movement per se, just a handful of organizations here and there, and it was just seen as a ‘prostitution’ issue that should be dealt with primarily through the criminal justice system. Within my first few weeks on doing outreach into the jails and on the streets, I met girls and young women, and adult women, who’d experienced so much violence, trauma and exploitation but were being seen and treated as criminals and pariahs. There were no specific services in NYC for a girl or young woman who was in the life and there was no sense of a need for larger…
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