Scarborough pushes bill to help teen prostitutes

As young girls, rescued off the streets by the Girls Educational and Mentoring Service (GEMS) are raising their voices and testifying in Albany, New York State Assemblymember William Scarborough is hoping to push legislation that would help sexually exploited women under the age of 17.
While high-end prostitution rings have become notorious in the last month, the reality is that adolescents and young women are being exploited, oftentimes forced to work on the streets, living in poverty amidst physical and sexual abuse. With pimps waiting outside the train and bus stations and even safe houses, many children enter into prostitution at the fragile age of 12. According to the Department of Justice, over 100,000 adolescents are involved in prostitution in the United States. The figure for New York State alone is over 3,000.
Scarborough is cosponsoring legislation that would assure that underage girls do not end up in jail or detention centers instead of their pimps. He is also a strong advocate of GEMS, an organization dedicated to helping girls and young women escape lives under constant threat, and providing them with housing and education.
“GEMS is the only community-based organization in the state of New York dedicated to serving the needs of sexually exploited youth and helping them reclaim lives that would otherwise be lost,” Scarborough said.
GEMS was founded by Rachel Lloyd, a former prostitute, born in England. When she was 13, Lloyd left school to work in factories and restaurants to support her alcoholic mother. Soon she found easier ways to make money and started drinking and taking drugs. She was raped and attempted suicide three times. Still only 17 years of age, she moved to Germany, longing for a fresh start, only to end up back on the streets. When her crack-addicted pimp tried to kill her, she ran to a local church, where she found shelter, a job, and a home.
Eventually, Lloyd emigrated to the United States. Starting to work with young women in a prison program, she vowed not only to change her life but also to help girls and young women in need and fight for their rights. Lloyd went back to school, first earning her GED, then a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and finally a Master’s degree in urban anthropology. Assemblymember Scarborough believes that the work GEMS does in helping those that have been cast away by life is of tremendous importance. “Rachel Lloyd and GEMS have rescued countless young victims from Southeast Queens off the streets and set them on a new course to become productive citizens,” he said. Scarborough will honor GEMS for “Building and Strengthening Our Community” on March 28 at the annual Friends of Bill Scarborough dinner.
GEMS is also developing the first alternative to imprisonment and detention for young women, who have been arrested for prostitution. The organization provides direct services to over 150 sexually exploited girls in addition to education for over 1,000.
GEMS is the cofounder of the New York City Task Force Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth and a founding member of the United States Campaign to Stop the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. For more information about the organization and its programs, call 212-926-8089 or visit GEMS’s web page at www.gems-girls.org.

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