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Girls Like Us

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GIRLS LIKE US

Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself

RACHEL LLOYD

“Lloyd’s passionate, persuasive arguments for recognition and protection give a voice to the thousands of girls all around us who work and suffer in near invisibility.” Elle

“Powerfully raw, deeply moving, and utterly authentic. Rachel Lloyd has turned a personal atrocity into triumph and is nothing less than a true hero. Exposing the complexities of ‘the life,’ she takes you inside a world most prefer to pretend doesn’t exist, and puts you front and center with the realities of the commercial sex industry and the modern day slave trade right here in America. Never again will you look at young girls on the street as one of ‘those’ women—you will only see little girls that are girls just like us.”

Demi Moore, actress and activist

“This book will burn a hole in your heart. The beauty of Rachel Lloyd’s searing memoir is how she exorcises the pain of her own troubled girlhood by connecting with hundreds of young women on a brutal path. The truth and power of her writing takes us to a place where common humanity becomes the ultimate healer.”

Mira Nair, director of The Namesake

At thirteen, Rachel Lloyd found herself spiraling into a life of abuse as a victim of commercial sexual exploitation.  Eventually, Lloyd was able to escape “the life”—but as the founder of GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services), a groundbreaking non-profit programs that helps girls and young women, ages 12-21, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking, Lloyd knows all too well that her success story is the exception. In her astonishingly frank memoir, Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself (Harper; April 5, 2011; $24.99 hardcover), Lloyd bravely tells of her own ordeal as a sexually exploited girl, and shares stories from her tireless work with other subjugated girls, drawing much-needed attention to the largely misunderstood epidemic of the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the U.S.

“When I tell people that the agency that I run serves over three hundred girls a year in the New York City metro area alone who’ve been trafficked for sexual purposes, they’ve invariably stunned,” Lloyd writes. “When I tell them that the girls and young women we serve are predominately U.S. citizens, their shock and sympathy turn to utter incomprehension… It’s often not until I explain that this phenomenon is what is commonly called ‘teen prostitution’ that recognition dawns. ‘Oh, that … but that’s different. Teen prostitutes choose to be doing that; aren’t they normally on drugs or something?’ In under three minutes, they’ve gone from sympathy to confusion to blame. Not because the issue is different, not because the violence isn’t real, not because the girls aren’t scared, but simply because borders haven’t been crossed, simply because the victims are American.”

Yet, as Lloyd eloquently and powerfully argues in Girls Like Us, the adolescents caught up in the commercial sex industry did not “choose” the life, and their past circumstances, often involving substance abuse, family abuse, and poverty, in no way mitigate their exploitation. Growing up in Britain, Lloyd herself dropped out of school at age thirteen to help support her alcoholic, and suicidal, mother. Escaping to Germany, she began working as a “hostess” in a strip club and became involved with an abusive and controlling man who was essentially her pimp. She expertly dissects the relationship between girls and their pimps, examining the psychological and emotional dependency these predators engender in their young victims. She boldly indicts the “system”—from johns to cops to the judicial system to the media—and the double standards it propagates about teen prostitution. (She points out, for example, that until recently in New York State a girl couldn’t legally consent to sex until she was seventeen, yet girls considerably younger were routinely charged and convicted for soliciting sex while the true perpetrators—the pimps and johns who are exploiting children—often went free.)

In addition to her own harrowing story, Lloyd shares many equally troubling stories from the girls with whom she works—stories steeped in physical and psychological abuse, and even rape. The girls that Lloyd helps through GEMS are as young as eleven, already in the life at a time when most children are still watching Disney movies. Though victims by any reasonable standard, she has discovered that these girls are rarely taken seriously by the system, their experiences of victimization shrugged off because of their race or economic backgrounds. While the media will pounce on a story involving a white middle-class girl abducted from the suburbs, countless minority girls disappear under similar circumstances and resurface on the streets with little or not attention paid to their plights.

By daring to share her own story and those of many girls like her, Rachel Lloyd opens our eyes to the shocking realities of the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in America, reminding us that the trafficking of children is not merely a Third World problem. Told with clarity, humanity, and insight, Girls Like Us is a call to arms to help empower these young women, so they can escape their abusers and save their lives.

About the Author

Rachel Lloyd is the founder and executive director of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) She earned her BA in psychology from Marymount Manhattan College, and an MA in applied urban anthropology from the City College of New York.  She has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Reebok Human Rights Award.  Lloyd is an Ashoka Fellow and a Prime Mover Fellow, and was a leading advocate for the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act, which makes New York the first state to protect, not prosecute, sexually exploited children.  She lives in New York City.

Visit www.gems-girls.org for more information

GIRLS LIKE US

By Rachel Lloyd

Harper | On-sale April 5, 2011 | $24.99 hardcover | ISBN: 978-0-06-158205-9 | 288 pages

Thursday, April 7th, 2011, 3:35 pm
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