Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd, a survivor of human trafficking in Europe who moved to New York and began ministering to victims and activating for legal and judicial change on their behalf. This book reads like a combination of memoir and non-fiction awareness about the issue of domestic trafficking of girls for sexual exploitation. Her writing is heart-felt and genuine based on her own horrific experiences, and detailing the healing process she found in helping other young girls and women who have been enslaved for sex. Her precise semantics were both what I appreciated most and least about her writing. This book is full of expletives, so for those of you who are sensitive about that sort of language in what you read - consider yourself forewarned. On one hand, I realize why she includes these words in her writing; if you're beaten to the point of half-dead and subsequently raped over and over, you're not going to say, "Oh shoot!" I'll admit - like the script in the movie Saving Private Ryan - her use of colorful language adds to the authenticity of her testimony. However, it was also confusing to me as a follower of Christ when she was using the f-bomb in one paragraph and referring to herself as a "missionary" in the next. Yes - she is committed to Jesus, and includes faith teaching in her counseling of girls who have been and are being commercially sexually exploited, and I don't question her faith because of the language. I'm just saying it took most of the book to figure out whether or not her audience included the faith-based community. In the end, I believe she can reach all of us - because her writing is accurate if anything. Case in point - the phrase in bold above. As Lloyd explains,
Constantly reframing the issue and changing the language has been imperative in changing public perception and sympathies. It's been a battle particularly with people in the media who feel that using the term commercially sexually exploited will confuse their audience. One reporter refused to change his terminology, saying that he felt that the term was "euphemistic." We debated for a while on how sexually exploited could possibly be considered euphemistic when it accurately described what actually happened to children and youth, whereas child prostitute seemed to denote who the child was as opposed to what was being done to her. In his article, he went ahead and called them "teen prostitutes" anyway, failing perhaps to understand that it wasn't a question of semantics, that words, names, terminology really do matter.And in this journey I'm on to pursue wisdom to go along with my zeal, this book was a crucial road marker.
In addition to learning to use terminology and words deliberately when fighting for awareness and abolition, I also took away from Lloyd a new clarification of choice when it comes to the prostituting of women and children. She carefully and beautifully weaves all of the crucial elements of this debate into a clear tapestry of what the reader will understand to be no real choice at all. Highlighting the issues of poverty; severe dysfunction so prevalent in families of origin; blatant physical, mental, sexual, and verbal oppression of girls and women by pimps [another term she redefines] and traffickers; corruption and inaction by many law enforcement authorities; as well as the abased self-image so prevalent in all of our culture, the author explores the issue of "choice" from all facets of this complicated prism. The rainbow of light that illuminates is this - no girl or woman, if given real options and viable alternatives would choose "the life" [of prostitution].
The female officer who has stayed puts her arm around me. In careful English and over my sobs, she explains what is going on. Yes, Mike is claiming the money is his. The bruises and cuts, the marks on my body and my feet apparently come from the fact that I like rough sex, and that's what we were doing in the field. In fact, he was trying to break up with me bu I didn't want to and that's why I came to the precinct. He's told them that I am a "Hure," and that my place of employment is a strip club. With these "facts" on the table my case has ceased to be a case. ... Later when JP begins to hit me, night after night, I'll know better than to go to the cops for help. I never do whiter the letter of complaint about [the officer who blamed her for being abused and raped]. I don't believe it'll do any good. After all, I'm not exactly a credible complainant, an upstanding citizen. Girls like me, I realize, get what they deserve.In desperately grasping for a way to stay alive, girls shame themselves into thinking they choose to be beaten, raped, sold, exploited, abused, starved, and sometimes even killed. Now that she has pursued and received restoration and healing, Rachel Lloyd serves girls and women night and day through an organization she started called GEMS to show them that's just not true - they are worth so much more than "the life"
Long-term healing requires that these girls understand that what they have experienced is not their fault. So many of these girls, their family members, the social workers, and law enforcement officials believe their exploitation was their choice. ... If I can begin to understand all the factors that made me vulnerable - the impact of race, class, and gender; the role played by my dysfunctional family; the power of the billion-dollar sex industry; the recruitment tactics of my pimp; the limited options as a teenager - then I can begin to shift the blame to the perpetrators instead of carrying it myself. ...Most of all [girls] need to finally understand what makes for a healthy, intimate relationship, an understanding that has been distorted over the years and which, if not corrected, puts them at risk for victimization over and over again.
Alright - that's probably too much already, and you'll have to get your own copy to experience her full story of redemption from the darkest hole imaginable into a life of light and hope she shares with hundreds every year. In fact, as much as I'd love to brag about an important piece of legislature she initiated and got passed in New York which is spreading to many other states in regard to sex trafficking, I'll let you read it yourself - you won't be disappointed. You may even want to start some support, advocacy, and activism of your own!
I know I do.
So, I'll leave you with this,
I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help. - Psalm 77:1-3
When we think of trafficked victims, may we always pray - remembering how they long for His help.
God - Your ways of redemption and restoration are good, and we long to see them on behalf of victims of injustice and exploitation all over our world. We need Your help, Holy Spirit. We need Your wisdom and strength if we are going to be the change these girls and women need us to be. Would you guide us and empower us with Your compassion and love, and would You rescue and restore these precious lives and souls, we beg You. I pray for Rachel Lloyd and GEMS - that You would pour Your favor and love over her and all of the girls and women she reaches with Your hope and love. May she find true comfort as You equip her to be the comfort to others. Thank You, Jesus. You are so amazingly loving, and we're Yours forever because of Your grace.