Holistic Case Management
GEMS believes that, with the right opportunities within reach, commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked girls and young women can overcome the complex web of contributing factors that perpetuate the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including racism, poverty, gender-based violence, and the criminalization of youth. Through the individual success of GEMS’ members and their mentoring roles at the agency, families break cycles of abuse, and educated and empowered youth are armed with the tools necessary to ascend from poverty and violence, creating, in turn, more equitable and just communities.
Holistic case management, trauma-based therapy, and clinical support are integral parts of survivors’ individual healing and recovery processes. To empower survivors to make healthy decisions and avoid self-destructive behaviors, GEMS direct services bring together these elements of programming to empower commercially sexually exploited girls and young women to succeed in interpersonal relationships well beyond program exit.
GEMS places a high value on the safety and well-being of its members. A supportive, caring environment with opportunities for regular counseling will ensure the health and stability of its members. Counselors provide one-on-one and group counseling for girls and young women who are referred to GEMS programs. Support services can include mental health assessments, counseling, health care, acquiring identification or benefits, assistance with educational needs, family intervention, and assistance in obtaining employment.
The Educational Initiative Program
GEMS recognizes that education is a key component to economic security and, as part of the youth development process, it is important for youth to understand how higher education and employability relates to their ability to live independent and self-sufficient lives. GEMS’ innovative Educational Initiative program has provided financial incentives for girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation to take the next step in their education, including registering for the GED, high school, college, or a vocational program; completing semesters; and eventually graduating. The emphasis of the Educational Initiative program is on education that results in gainful employment or employment training in areas that do not require education attainment, including in non-traditional female employment areas like trade skills.
The Educational Initiative provides financial incentives to reward the educational achievements of the girls and young women GEMS serves and provides support to aid them in meeting their monthly expenses, like transportation.
This program provides a unique opportunity to transform the current approach to serving domestic victims of commercial sexual exploitation, creating a nationally replicable model of economic independence that will exponentially impact young victims and survivors throughout the country.
The Youth Development Program
The Youth Development program addresses young women’s developmental, social, and emotional needs through strengths-based programming. Commercially sexually exploited young women often need encouragement to become aware of their inherent value and innate potential. The vast majority have experienced negativity and low expectations from adults throughout their lives. GEMS does not believe in treating youth simply as passive victims, but works to develop young women’s sense of self as empowered and competent. Providing a strong sense of agency, structure and accountability is vital for young women’s development into self-sufficient, independent young adults.
Youth Development programming is highly individualized; GEMS works with each girl’s strengths and interests so they can uncover their personal goals and unique talents. GEMS members build upon this foundation continually throughout their growth and development. In turn, GEMS sets high standards and expectations for its members, confident that youth will strive to develop to their full potential when introduced to the power of self-motivation and the right resources.
The Youth Leadership Program
GEMS is a firm believer in youth-led change. With CSEC survivors at the forefront of the movement to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the Youth Leadership program is the bedrock of GEMS programming. Youth Leadership uses a curriculum created by survivors to help transition members from victims to leaders. GEMS Youth Outreach Team, which consists of members who have transitioned to permanent staff positions, use personal experiences as a source of inspiration to connect with and mentor young girls who are working actively to exit the commercial sex industry.
A 16-week program, Youth Leadership supports young girls’ development of critical thinking and concrete leadership skills in a loving and challenging environment. Members deepen their understanding of the social conditions that keep commercial exploitation in place and build public-speaking and community-organizing skills through outreach, events, advocacy, and media work. GEMS’ goal is to prepare youth survivors to serve the national movement to end CSEC as peer mentors and community educators. The program also consists of an internship component, where girls work in various departments of the organization, such as development, communications, and human resources.
Because the only way to ensure a member’s successful recovery from the commercial sex industry is to address the entire person, a mentoring and support group component is at the core of the Youth Leadership program. Each participant is matched with a staff member of the Youth Outreach Team who has been trained to provide peer counseling. Mentors meet youth leadership participants once a week to discuss class work, assignments, and various other personal and professional issues. The most rewarding outcome to this mentoring partnership is the blossoming of personal relationships among participants. With a shared understanding and definition of the ways the commercial sex industry divides women, Youth Leadership participants repair old wounds and learn specific skills to build genuine and rewarding relationships with other women.