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Girls Like Us Pdf
A deeply moving story by a survivor of the commercial sex industry who has devoted her career to activism and helping other young girls escape “the life”
At thirteen, Rachel Lloyd found herself caught up in a world of pain and abuse, struggling to survive as a child with no responsible adults to support her. Vulnerable yet tough, she eventually ended up a victim of commercial sexual exploitation. It took time and incredible resilience, but finally, with the help of a local church community, she broke free of her pimp and her past.
Three years later, Lloyd arrived in the United States to work with adult women in the sex industry and soon founded her own nonprofit GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Servicesto meet the needs of other girls with her history. She also earned her GED and won full scholarships to college and a graduate program. Today Lloyd is executive director of GEMS in New York City and has turned it into one of the nation’s most groundbreaking nonprofit organizations.
In Girls Like Us, Lloyd reveals the dark, secretive world of her past in stunning cinematic detail. And, with great humanity, she lovingly shares the stories of the girls whose lives she has helped; small victories that have healed her wounds and made her whole. Revelatory, authentic, and brave, Girls Like Us is an unforgettable memoir.
Can someone please explain the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to me? Seriously. Look, I voted for Obama, and I still don’t understand why he won the Peace Prize. And the EU, honestly Canada, the US, and Mexico have avoided going to war for years and do we get a prize? Nope. Why don’t people like Rachel Lloyd win the blasted thing?
Lloyd’s book chronicles not only her experience as a se trafficking victim, but more importantly, the work she does with GEMS helping girls overcome their abuse and find themselves. Mixed into the memoir are facts and observations about how society, in particular the law enforcement said, views such girls. I personally enjoyed the lengthy discussion over the word pimp. The most important aspect of the book, however, is the argument – a plea for understanding and acceptance towards the young girls who form the vast majority of victims. Lloyd doesn’t ask for pity, but for the understanding which is far more important and valuable than pity. There is this –ism that those engage in the trade are willing and fully enlightened employees. While this may true for some, such as adult woman, is it really true for teenagers who, for a variety of reasons, are not in possession of the skills and knowledge that an adult has? The answer is no, but in most society the answer is no only if the teen in question is male, a boy. The answer is yes, if the teen in question is a girl. Lloyd does an excellent job of attacking this without getting on a high horse. Well worth reading if interested in rape culture, trafficking, and prostitution as well as abuse.
Do not read this book if you are faint of heart. This book will make you want to cry, to tear your hair out in rage, to raise a fist to the hundreds of politicians sitting in cozy offices, ignoring the plea of these commercially sexually exploited girls. Because when you are a 15 year-old African-American runaway from the bad end of town, you aren’t a “prostitute”. If that girl were a pretty white girl in a middle- or upper-class home in a white neighborhood, you can sure as bet your boots that it would be called statutory rape. But that same girl who can’t legally drive, drink or vote can still get charged as an adult for being forced into prostitution? Does no one see the discrepancy here??
At first, I wasn’t sure about the style, as Lloyd switches back and forth from her personal story to a non-fiction narrative filled with statistics and details to the stories of girls she’s met. But after a bit, I felt the flow. And it was good. Lloyd is a great writer, and her story (and the stories of the girls who have come into her care through GEMS) is a stirring one, one telling those of us in positions of privilege and power to wake up, get off our @$$es and DO something. Again, this is not an easy book to read, but the message is an important one. These girls’ voices need to be heard, and we need to work together to do something for them.
I have to say, this is really the book that changed my life. Before I read it, I had only the vaguest suspicions that the boyfriend I’d had when I was 18, the one I thought loved me like no one else did, the one I gave all my stripper and “extras” money to, was really a pimp. I thought I’d just been weak and stupid, but this book explained the psychology of “the life” in a clear way that gave me a better understanding of myself- such a gift! What’s more, it gave me increased empathy for the girls who had it so much worse. I’d known about girls who’d been years younger than I was when they’d fallen under the control of a pimp; I competed with them for money in the strip club, I walked past them in the street, we had mutual acquaintances. This book showed me they were not girls to talk shit about or even pity. Their pain, their past, their futures are linked not just to me, but to every woman and every member of society, whether they are conscious of it or not.
Even if I did not personally relate to this book as a former prostitute (note: I use the word “prostitute” when describing myself because I was a legal adult, three months past my eighteenth birthday, the first time I turned a trick. However, I wholeheartedly agree with the term “commercially sexually exploited children” in regards to the younger girls, because “prostitute” implies a choice, and a teenager who cannot legally consent to sex cannot be considered responsible for any choice others make with regards to them having sex for money.) and even if I had never felt the tight grip of a pimp, and the “life” itself, I would still recommend this book. It is beautifully written. The clarity of Rachel Lloyd’s explanations will make you understand on an intellectual level. The sheer horror of the subject matter will make you understand on a visceral level. The way Rachel writes, with honesty and even humor, will make you understand on an emotional level, and that is the most important of all.
This is a book that everyone should read. Rachel Lloyd tells her story of sexual exploitation as a young girl, how she finally escaped the grips of her pimp, and made the decision to start working with other young girls and women. Lloyd grew up in England in a rough and tumultuous home. As a teen, she ran away to Germany, where penniless and frightened, she started working as a stripper. Her stories are heartbreaking and real. She is graphic in her depictions of physical abuse; the story is frequently painful to read.
The woman she has become is marvelous and beautiful. At age 23, Lloyd came to NYC to start working for a nonprofit organization. Through her work with other girls, she was able to heal her wounds, and become a serious activist. The main point of “Girls Like Us” is to drive home that there are no teen prostitutes. Lloyd explains that there are sexually exploited and trafficked girls – these girls are victims, with no choices, who are forced into “the life.” She is emphasizing and re-emphasizing that commercial sexual trafficking occurs everyday, here in the US, with American girls.
Lloyd founds GEMS, a nonprofit organization, where she pushes to change legislation that penalizes adolescent girls for being bought by older men. Lloyd wants these girls to stay out of jail, and get into treatment. GEMS provides a safe harbor in NYC where the trafficked girls can go for love, support, and leadership skills.
The door at GEMS is constantly revolving: almost all of the girls go back to their pimps over and over again. Escaping “the life” is an uphill battle for these teenagers. The “love” of their pimps is often the only care they’ve ever received, and their lives on the “track” is the only normal one. Lloyd has seemingly infinite patience and zero judgment. Each time a girl returns, she welcomes them with the same love and support. Eventually, many of the girls leave “the life,” and with the help of GEMS, go on to finish high school, get jobs, and create something with their lives. The beauty and camaraderie that forms between the girls is healing, and for the reader – breathtaking.
Throughout the book, I felt like I was repeatedly getting punched in the gut. I would fill up with tears after reading a single sentence. For example: “Incest is bootcamp for prostitution.” Or when Rachel is sitting with her first real girlfriend, who has forgotten to get her husband a cup of tea, and Rachel naively asks, “Why didn’t he hit you?” For me, that sentence succinctly sums up how perfectly normal physical abuse was for Lloyd.
“Girls Like Us” spans a period of over 15 years. The reader gets to experience everything from Lloyd’s childhood, her terrifying adolescence, emerging adulthood, and evolution into an educated and successful young woman. Alongside Lloyd’s development is the growth of GEMS, and many of the GEMS girls.
As I said in the beginning, I feel this is a book that everyone should read. It reframes issues of social justice and child exploitation. Lloyd makes clear that the US has a long way to go in terms of how it treats its young girls and women. So many of the books we read today are stories of survivors from around the world: I’ve read dozens of stories by women from Cambodia or Nigeria or some other faraway place who have escaped lives of sexual exploitation and abuse. It is so easy for a woman like me to forget or ignore what is happening right in our own communities. “Girls Like Us” is a painful and poignant reminder that change needs to happen here in the US – now.
I was a little nervous about adding this book to the collection as it is a book about the sex trafficking trade. However, it was a starred review and recommended for teens. So, when it arrived, I put it on my list of books to read.
I was pleasantly surprised. It was fabulous. Ms. Lloyd is to be commended, not only for writing a wonderful book on a topic that many Americans don’t think about (the American sex slave, child prostitute), but for opening up her own life for as a lens to use for looking at the trade.
While there is harsh language and sometimes there are some situations that are described that are distasteful(abuse, etc.), she is able to convey all of it without resorting to graphic descriptions of the sex act itself. So, while it is definitely a grade 9 and above purchase, it should be a purchase for any high school library that has a group of students who are into social activism, who are inspired by women who make something of their lives or who are involved in Model United Nations and might be working on committees with topics dealing with sex trafficking issues.
About Girls Like Us Author
In 1998, at just 23 years old, Rachel Lloyd founded Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) at her kitchen table with $30 and a borrowed computer. She was driven by the lack of services for commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked girls and young women and the incredible stigma and punishment they faced from service providers, law enforcement, the courts, their families, and society.