Survivor Leadership

Survivor leadership has been at the core of GEMS’ success since its inception. One of a handful of survivor-led organizations in the country, GEMS is committed to ensuring that the voices of girls and young women are heard. This has allowed GEMS to champion survivor leadership and survivor engagement for two decades.

While others resisted putting survivors in leadership positions, GEMS consistently understood the value of placing these girls and young women—the very people capable of providing invaluable insight on how to address commercial sexual exploitation—front and center in our work and messaging.


The success of our organization speaks for itself in the timeline of our accomplishments:



GEMS hosted the first National Summit for Sexually Exploited Youth in Washington, D.C.


GEMS hosted the first survivor led Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C.


GEMS hosted the first survivor led legislative hearing in Albany, New York


GEMS helped pass the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act based on the courage and resilience of our youth survivors 


As a result of our successes, GEMS created the national Survivor Leadership Institute and Resource Center. The goal of this center was to provide a community, professional development and support, and authentic leadership opportunities to the girls and young women GEMS serves. It was also established to help adult survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking nationwide.

SLI launched with the groundbreaking More Than A Survivor exhibit, a traveling exhibit featuring the portraits of 22 survivors from across the country. We also recently hosted our 3rd annual Emerging Leaders Conference in April 2018, the largest gathering of survivors to date in the U.S.


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The Survivor Leadership Institute also offers

  • Webinars and trainings throughout the year

  • The new Survivor Leadership podcast hosted by Rachel Lloyd

  • Applications for the 12-month Executive Leadership Training and technical assistance program for executive directors of survivor led organizations

  • Connections with other survivors and regional SLI Ambassadors

  • Applications for the national Emerging Leaders Conference

The SLIRC also provides trainings and resources for organizations looking to better serve and support youth and/or adult survivors and ways to ensure that their organizations are survivor informed and more importantly survivor engaged.