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Empowering Survivors

Empowering survivors to express their experiences, observations, and desires for a better life and world is at the core of GEMS’ program philosophy. Below are recent expressions that girls and young women participating in our programs have contributed:

“CSEC stands for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of youth. It’s a term that describes the struggles and suffering of girls and young women. Painful memories, emotional and physical trauma, and abuse happening every hour, every minute, and every second of every day. For us, the survivors, it can be a staggeringly difficult time in our lives. The voices of abused children often remain silent, many judge us and make light of what we’ve been through. Others don’t take the time to acknowledge that’s an issue in the  first place. But to those who want to see a change, it means never quitting. It means never giving up hope. It means recognition of a preventable problem. It means with a little patience and understanding, positive outlooks are possible. Dreams can be reached and progress can be achieved. Young girls that were once victimized can now be leaders, role models, inspirational figures, and achievers.They can express themselves freely, through art and poetry, without fear or hesitation and let their creativity and inner beauty shine through. Young girls that will grow into young women. Filled with pride and enthusiasm for the future, to come.” —Jennifer, age 24

What’s Your Story?

Maybe you’ve never been arrested, convicted or did any time.
Never kissed a boy you’ve had a crush on, or never hung out past
your curfew. Never been in an abusive relationship. Never smoked pot
a day in your life. Never considered stripping just to get by.

I’ll tell you what we’ve done. We’ve spent many nights alone
and helpless. Probably never made it past eighth grade. We’ve
been hit, arrested by the system. Abused by our boyfriends.
We’ve imagined flying away from all the pain.

We’re gaining self-worth back. We’ve written it all down to
share what hurts. Some of us are out, some of us remain in.
Some of us are in danger, all of us are scared. None of us know
what makes us so different, but we all know what did.
Listen to our stories because now we’re breaking the silence.

—Dominique, age 17

I Am So Lost.

I’ve been lost for a while
Hiding behind jokes and smiles.
I know that’s what everyone sees when they look at me.
If they only knew the thoughts in my head,
How lonely I feel inside like I’m almost dead.
Time passes and I suppress the depression inside,
That’s all I can do because I won’t let myself Cry.

—Jennifer, age 21

“Most people don’t understand why we stay with a pimp. Many of us have been exploited by our peers, society, and often by the people that we trust. When we’re the most vulnerable, pimps attack, promising us stability, a family life, a future. They reel us in. He becomes our father, and our boyfriend, until we see what he really wants. Then he intimidates us and reminds us constantly about the consequences if we leave. Most tell us that they’ll find and kill us, no matter where we go. We’re afraid of being afraid. Resources are limited and many of us do not see a way out.”

—Anon

Look in My Eyes.

Look in my eyes.
Tell me what they say.
Do they tell you my future?
Or just about today?
Can you see the tears I cry?
Well what about the pain I hide?
Or is it you just don’t care what’s inside.
All anyone ever sees
is the fake me I have to be.
But if that’s all you want to see
then you’ll never know
The real me.

—Monique, age 19

Lost in Dark Depression

Lost in dark depression,
Not knowing where to run.
I opened the windows to my soul
To see what I could learn.

I swept up depression,
Scrubbed the sadness and the hurt,
I put it all in trash bags
And set them by the curb.

I found, stashed in a corner
Tucked high upon a shelf,
A treasure chest of knowledge
That I could love myself.
And wherever my future takes me
I know that I will win,
Because I opened the
windows to my soul,
And let the light shine in.

—Calesha, age 19

Before I Die

Life is too short
Regrets and mistakes are memories made
Live your life to the fullest
“You’re never gonna make it,” they said
Show them you can
Love yourself

—Selina, age 16

 For more of our members’ poetry and art, please purchase Breaking the Silence, a book exploring commercial sexual exploitation through personal stories, poems, and artwork by GEMS members.