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The blog


World Poetry Day: Survivors break the silence surrounding sexual exploitation and trafficking in the US through poetry

Women's WorldWide Web


Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) logoOn World Poetry Day, W4 is proud to share poems written by three brave young women who have survived commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking in the United States and have risen from their traumatic experiences to find their voice thanks to the leadership and empowerment services offered by New York City-based NGO, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS).


Founded in 1998, GEMS provides survivors with such vital support services as counseling, job and leadership training, healthcare, crisis housing, and court advocacy.  GEMS also works with policymakers to solve systemic issues that perpetuate the exploitation and trafficking of girls and young women within the United States and works to raise awareness of this crucial issue among the American public. To discover more about GEMS’ inspiring programs and how you can support their life-transforming work, we invite you to read our recent interview with the organization’s CEO and Founder, Rachel Lloyd.


Rachel Lloyd of GEMS mentors a young woman


What’s Your Story?


Maybe you’ve never been arrested, convicted or did any time.
Never kissed a boy you’ve had a crush on, or never hung out past
your curfew. Never been in an abusive relationship. Never smoked pot
a day in your life. Never considered stripping just to get by.


I’ll tell you what we’ve done. We’ve spent many nights alone
and helpless. Probably never made it past eighth grade. We’ve
been hit, arrested by the system. Abused by our boyfriends.
We’ve imagined flying away from all the pain.


We’re gaining self-worth back. We’ve written it all down to
share what hurts. Some of us are out, some of us remain in.
Some of us are in danger, all of us are scared. None of us know
what makes us so different, but we all know what did.
Listen to our stories because now we’re breaking the silence.


—Dominique, age 17


Girls of GEMS with t-shirts that read "Girls are not for sale"


Lost in Dark Depression


Lost in dark depression,
Not knowing where to run.
I opened the windows to my soul
To see what I could learn.


I swept up depression,
Scrubbed the sadness and the hurt,
I put it all in trash bags
And set them by the curb.


I found, stashed in a corner
Tucked high upon a shelf,
A treasure chest of knowledge
That I could love myself.
And wherever my future takes me
I know that I will win,
Because I opened the
windows to my soul,
And let the light shine in.


—Calesha, age 19


A group photo of the team at GEMS


Before I Die


Life is too short
Regrets and mistakes are memories made
Live your life to the fullest
“You’re never gonna make it,” they said
Show them you can
Love yourself


—Selina, age 16



© Women’s WorldWide Web 2013

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Meet the editor-in-chief

Andrea Ashworth

Andrea is an author, journalist and academic. She has studied, taught or held fellowships at Oxford, Yale and Princeton. Andrea has written fiction and non-fiction for numerous publications, including Vogue, Granta, The Times, The TLS and The Guardian. She is the author of the award-winning and internationally bestselling memoir "Once in a House on Fire". Andrea works to raise awareness about domestic violence and to promote literacy and education.