"Meeting girls ages 12,13, 14 years old had become routine, however sad and horrific. But eleven? Not even a teenager, still very much a child..."Do you have any idea what kind of world we live in? Children are being sold!" I want to yell, perhaps for the more placid ones a vigorous shake of the shoulder. I'm disgusted by their ignorance, by their carefree attitudes." -Rachel Lloyd
I began to read this book by Rachel Lloyd called "Girls like Us" (which you can find at the St. Louis County Library). Rachel was a victim of sex trafficking and she writes this memoir of her healing process as she ministers to girls in NYC, who have also been domestically trafficked, through the organization she founded called GEMS. Her book is in depth and informative about sex trafficking, but also shares story after story of heartbreaking brokenness in the lives of so many young girls through this industry that is degrading to their very humanity. Their stories are similar in that they often come from abusive, broken, and impoverished homes. It begins there, with their views on normal life and love distorted and twisted into lie after lie. Their pimps convincing them that they belong in the life and could never fit in with the outside world, where they would not be taken care of or loved like they are now.
These girls don't escape this life through an instant decision to leave. It takes years and years for them to recover, many of the girls experiencing symptoms of Post traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). They have learned from a young age of 11,12,13... that their worth comes from selling their bodies, what their pimp says or does to them, and that love involves beatings, rape, etc. In regards to the "good" that the pimps did for the girls, Rachel writes, "...the critical factor is not whether the kindness is legitimate or valid, simply that the victim perceives it to be so. For Danielle, it's her cubic zirconia necklace, for Angelina, it's the chocolate Yoo-hoos; for another girl it's the gift of a Wizard of Oz DVD, for another it's being allowed to sit in the front seat of the car. For some girls, the only kindness is the absence of violence..." This is truly heartbreaking.
There are so many other factors that only aggravate and don't alleviate the issues these girls face. I learned that many girls who are domestically trafficked aren't recognized as acceptable victims, that they are often seen as criminals because that they chose this life of prostitution. They are not receiving the grace, mercy, and justice that they deserve.
There is so much more, that I can hardly wrap my mind around it all but it's a start. This book is a must read.
I want to share just a few resources I found helpful or want to further investigate myself. I want to encourage you to learn, pray, and take action. We must fight against trafficking because it brings so much brokenness in the lives of children and teens who are also made in God's image and deserve to be loved and protected.