Newsletter: Survivors Seeking Change
Greetings! April has been a whirlwind month! I am sending this message from the west coast, where for the last week I have been having conversations about the importance of survivor- and community-led organizing and activism. These conversations have reinforced the GEMS principle that the only way to end the commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of girls and young women is to address the issues that perpetuate them, including racism, poverty, police brutality, and other forms of violence and oppression. And we must ensure that the most impacted, the most marginalized, are leading the fight!
I’m happy to report that at the end of last month, GEMS members and staff met with NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to talk about importance of better training for the NYPD on
the needs of CSEC victims. The GEMS team killed it! The experience proved once again how important survivor advocacy is. Read more below.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I hope you’ll consider purchasing the GEMS anthem, “This Is to Mother You,” featuring GEMS member Martha B, Mary J Blige, and Sinead O’Connor. The song is a great way to support our members’ accomplishments, raise awareness, and support GEMS!
Thank you for supporting the girls and young women we are proud to serve. While I’m traveling around the country for the Girls Like Us book tour, I am so honored to be meeting other allies just like you. We couldn’t do it without you!
Founder & Executive Director
Meeting with Commissioner Kelly
GEMS’ members and staff met with Commissioner Kelly last month and shared their experiences with the NYPD. On her own experiences with police, GEMS’ Survivor Leadership Coordinator Sheila said, “As a child, you have this belief that if you call 911, police will help you. Instead, when I was in the life, they were propositioning you for sex, using you, abusing you. It shatters your world. And it reinforces the bond that you have with this pimp, because he is telling you that he is the only person who can help you.”
The Commissioner acknowledged that the NYPD needs better training when interacting with victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking and said that a special police unit on trafficking is in the making. Keeping in mind how training videos have sensitized the NYPD to the needs of victims of domestic violence, the Commissioner also called for a CSEC training video, produced by survivors, to educate the police on the specific needs of victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.
Dorchen A. Leidholdt, Director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at the Sanctuary for Families, who was also at the meeting with international CSE survivors, is hopeful about the outcomes of the meeting. Says Leidholdt, “I hope that he [the Commissioner] will use this new found knowledge to develop a comprehensive response to human trafficking that prioritizes investigations of traffickers, curtails demand by arresting sex industry buyers, and stops revictimizing victims by arresting people for prostitution, given the undeniable fact that many if not most have been subjected to exploitation and abuse, including trafficking.”
The GEMS team reports that the meeting was empowering: the Commissioner was clearly moved by the survivors’ testimonies, and he let everyone know that he was taking their stories seriously. This is a huge step forward in how law enforcement treats victims of CSEC and domestic trafficking, and we’ll keep you posted on the outcomes!
Educating the Courts
The Gender Fairness Committees of New York County Courts in conjunction with the New York Women’s Bar Association and the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association screened Very Young Girls to a packed house of judges and lawyers at the New York County Supreme Court. GEMS’ Clinical Director presented at the panel discussion that followed the screening alongside representatives from the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and from the Sanctuary for Families.
GEMS Members’ T-shirts on Display
To mark National Crime Victims’ Week, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office organized events with local service agencies. GEMS members made t-shirts for the Clothesline Project, which were on display all week at the Bronx Museum to promote awareness about the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), an often overlooked form of violence against women.
Celebrating Mother’s Day
The brainchild of Sinead O’Connor, who asked GEMS member Martha B to re-record with her and Mary J Blige, “This Is to Mother You” expresses this simple promise to vulnerable children worldwide: You may not see us, but we see you. And we will love and care for you. Buy the song here!
Highlights & Happenings
Diamond of the Month
We are proud to name Anna as April’s Diamond of the Month. A long-time member, Anna has recently reengaged with GEMS and is now an active presence at GEMS. She regularly participates in groups, and we are so thankful for how she has been mentoring other members, particularly those who have also been mandated through the Alternative to Incarceration program. Anna is a great role model and is smart, upbeat, and continues to make girls new to the agency feel comfortable. She is a shining example of the GEMS saying, Once a member, always a member! She has continued to connect with the GEMS family as she transitions into independent adulthood. Anna is an inspiration!
Girls Night Out
GEMS members received donated tickets to head out in style to Good Housekeeping’s SHINE ON: Celebrating Women Making History on April 12. The girls got a shout out from host Rebecca Romijn during this star-studded event and watched Eve perform, Meryl Streep present, and Frangela do stand up. All proceeds benefited the National Women’s History Museum, and the girls had a great time!
New Group for Members
The Educational Initiative (EI) group is a new facet of the EI Program, which provides members with incentives for taking the next step in their education. Designed to offer therapeutic support, this group will help EI participants brainstorm and support each other while tackling the challenges that come with enrolling in school, navigating financial aid, interacting with professors, and more.
Tragedy and Awareness
Nationwide news sources have been covering the story of the Long Island serial killer who has tragically murdered ten young women and possibly a child, at least four of whom the media has identified as “prostitutes” or “Craigslist escorts.” While these news stories have helped to raise awareness about how commercially sexually exploited girls and young women are so much more likely than their non-prostituted counterparts to be murdered, numerous questions about these victims have arisen: Does society view these women and girls as real victims? Listen to the full interview with Rachel here.
Woman of Achievement
The Bronx County Gender Fairness Committee and the Bronx Women’s Bar Association gave Rachel the Women of Achievement Award! The program for this Women’s History Month celebration was dedicated to recognizing outstanding women who are fostering positive change in their community and worldwide.
GEMS in the News
Tags: “This Is to Mother You”, Bronx District Attorney’s Office, Bronx Women’s Bar Association, commercial sexual exploitation of children, Commissioner Kelly, Community Outreach, Craigslist, CSEC, Domestic Trafficking, GEMS, GEMS Newsletter, Good Housekeeping’s SHINE ON: Celebrating Women Making History, Mary J. Blige, National Crime Victims’ Week, National Women’s History Museum, Newsletter, Sinead O'Connor, Survivor Leadership, The Bronx County Gender Fairness Committee, The Gender Fairness Committees of New York County Courts, Women of Achievement Award
Saturday, April 30th, 2011, 10:19 am
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