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He told her he loved her. He told her he’d give her a job at his recording studio. She was 16, jobless, and living with a friend, so she believed him. She never expected what would happen next: He took her to his house in New Jersey, where she was forced to prostitute herself along with ten other young women.
“Whatever he wanted me to do, I did because he provided me a place to stay,” Andrea (not her real name) told the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth in a podcast interview last year. “He gave me food. And he gave me the affection and the attention that I was looking for.”
Andrea finally escaped sex trafficking with the help of GEMS, or Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, an organization in New York that enables girls like her to exit “the life.”
GEMS provides health care, counseling, housing and career guidance. Just as important, the program attempts to give victims hope for the future, a sense of self-worth and adult role models worthy of trust and free of judgment.
“I could come here with nothing on, and they would still be here with hands open,” says Andrea, who now works at GEMS and is getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
A documentary about GEMS, called “Very Young Girls,” is available on DVD.