Rachel Loyd’s fantastic book, Girls Like Us, interweaves her story as a survivor of sexual abuse with stories of girls she works with in New York City through her organization GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Services). What is happening to girls in our world right now is heart-breaking and I am thankful for those like Rachel with the courage to not just speak out, but to share their stories.
Over the last few years I’ve tried to familiarize myself with human trafficking worldwide and its incarnation in the United States as sex trafficking – the abuse of women and girls who are forced to sell their bodies. I was familiar with the story of GEMS from watching a documentary on their work. Yet this book still shook me. At one point Rachel talks about being invited over to the home of a couple from her church in Germany. She tells how the husband asked the wife for a cup of tea when she went into the kitchen, but the wife forgot to bring it. Rachel recalls a sense of fear welling up inside her, fear that she will now witness the husband begin to beat his wife in punishment. Instead, the husband smiles and says he’ll get his own tea. Rachel says she was shocked because all she know of life was that women are punished when they disobey men.
I can’t imagine seeing the world this way, going through life where it is just accepted that men abuse women. Unfortunately, this is the life too many women live and think is normal.
Stories like this break my heart. I am also left wondering what I can possibly do to change much of anything? I suppose I can give money to GEMS, supporting the work of Rachel and others like her. But what if I want to do more than just give money? I can raise my daughter as best I can, hopefully that would count for something. It is difficult to know what else.
Just knowing what is going on is better than not knowing. I think of the story Rachel told of a woman testifying against her abuser (i.e., pimp). This woman was underage which means her pimp was a rapist who sold her to other men to rape. Yet Rachel tells how all the jury saw was a woman who had chosen this life, even though she was not old enough to choose and no one would choose such a life. The public need reeducated so that we do not see these girls as “child prostitutes” but as victims of crime and abuse. Maybe I’ll never be on a jury. But there are and will be juries where pimps are on trial. Hopefully more people on juries in the future will have read Rachel’s book and will listen to the victim’s testimony rather then judging her. Through this, criminals can be put in prison where they belong.
So I highly encourage you to read this book and then to pass it on to others to read. May we read it and think of ways to bring about change in our culture.
Other books on human trafficking and related topics: