Girls for sale! Changing the conversation on exploited kids in the U.S.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and we are excited to share with you the insightful interview of Rachel Lloyd, advocate and activist, in Forbes Magazine. Author of Girls Like Us and founder of GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services), Rachel is a nationally recognized expert on the issue of child sex trafficking in America.
“What’s the biggest misconception about sexually trafficked women and girls in America?
I think the biggest misconception is that it’s a victimless crime. That it’s harmless. That girls and women are just (A) too lazy to get a job at McDonald’s, or (B) like having sex all the time. Some of the things that get said about women and girls in the sex industry are heinous.
The reality is that the vast majority of the girls who end up in the sex industry are coming from homes where there’s been sexual abuse, physical abuse, trauma and domestic violence. For children, the discussion of choice is a moot point. If we say children can’t choose to drive or to drink or to vote, how can children choose to be in the sex industry?
How big of a part of the American sex trade is comprised of underage girls or children?
It’s difficult to pinpoint. The most referred-to statistic says that 300,000 youths are at risk for being exploited by the sex industry. The challenges to more specific numbers are that are that the only way to do it would be to look at arrest records, but girls are often told to say that they’re older than they are so they end up being prosecuted as adults.
Also, it’s an underground issue and a transient population and this isn’t a group that’s coming forward to be counted or participate in studies. You don’t’ want to overestimate the number so it looks like hyperbole…
But it’s happening. As an indicator, we’ve served 330 girls and young women GEMS in just the last year. And the severity of the abuse and the trauma and what it being done to girls both by the men who are trafficking them—the pimps—and by the men who are buying them—the johns, the so-called “regular men”—is horrific…”