Monday, April 25, 2011

Girls Like Us

A strange title for a man's blog post, no?

Well, stick around, because this is one of the most important blog posts I've written. Nothing like setting myself up for failure...

SO - as if I didn't have enough books I signed up for the Amazon Vine program, where they send me books in exchange for an honest review on Amazon. I was amazed by the list of items to choose from. Only two? Probably for the best.

I picked a novel and then took a chance on a book called Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd. Anyone who's followed my blog knows that human trafficking is a deep concern for me. I've read books and web articles by those who work to help the victims of trafficking. I made it a point to listen to Laura Lederer, the former head of the State Department task force on human trafficking, at a talk at the local university. I'm versed in the issue.

But nothing prepared me for Rachel Lloyd's story.

That's because she lived the life of a victim of trafficking.

The subtitle for the book is: Fighting For A World Where Girls Are Not For Sale, An Activist Finds Her Calling And Heals Herself. This sums up the content of the book well. The book is told from Rachel's point of view, but it is not a straight-forward memoir or autobiography.

The book is organized by different topics that affect girls who end up trafficked for sex: family neglect and abuse, pimps, johns, cops and legal authorities, trying to escape, relapse, and healing. The story is fully engaging by alternating Rachel's experiences of falling into the sex industry in Germany as a teenager to how other girls she's worked with since have had similar problems. All along she is discussing the issue at the heart of the chapter - whether it is the men who provide the demand, the problems with existing laws in dealing with the issue, or the work of people to provide a way out.

Rachel survived drugs, alcohol, abuse, and death threats. Upon leaving the industry and her pimp, she found a church in German military base where she started her healing process. When she came to the States in 1997, she started working with girls who ended up forced into prostitution. She eventually started GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, to work with victims in New York. The book is gripping with the details of Rachel's own trials and those of the women she is serving.

The book does a lot of education, using the themes above to discuss issues and misconceptions related to prostitution. She challenges the mindset that teen girls choose this lifestyle, the influence of pop culture on glorifying pimps and the control involved, and the way advocates are working to address the problems of the legal system in working with these kids. However, it is not preachy or lecturing. Instead, the heart is impacted by the stories of the Jasmines, Tiffanys, Aishas, and Rachel herself.

Reading this book deeply affected me. The prologue made me want to read all day, so I moved on. After reading the first chapter, I had to stop because I was shocked. I'm a rural boy from Idaho, so I don't get out to the big city all that much, and I couldn't believe what I was reading. I wasn't turned off, but I needed a break. The book does have rough language, especially in the middle of the book, so the sensitive are warned. However, my feeling is if you can't read this book and get past a little salty language, then shame on you.

The book convicted me as a man in the ways, however small, I contribute to the sexual glorification of women, because this snowballs into lust that puts these vulnerable girls at risk. It made me want to do what I can to help combat the problem, whether on the side of demand or helping the victims. My passion is increased because my compassion is engaged.

The problem of human trafficking is real. There are more slaves in the world today than during the height of the African slave trade. It isn't just an international problem. Rachel shows the readers how it is a problem right here in the United States. I believe every true Christian, and anyone with a heart for the victim of poverty, injustice, and abuse, should read this book to understand it a little better.


  1. Good review. Critical topic.

    Now write and (right) your novel, Jason. There's no better time.

  2. Thanks Nicole, for being a never ending source of encouragement!

  3. Nicole rocks, doesn't she?

    This book sounds like a tough read, but an important one.

  4. Wow. Yes, it is a problem. Due to the nature of my work, we receive training on this every year. It's horrifying to think what women and children are suffering this very instant.