For the service-learning project, my group, which consisted of Zara, Rio, Jay, Javin, and I, selected sex trafficking as our social issue. Sex trafficking, or sexual exploitation, involves the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion, or other means for the purpose of sexually exploiting them. Commercial sexual exploitation is a painful reality for more than 3,000 children in New York City, yet many people are unaware that the issue even exists in the five boroughs. Since pimps find children to be easily manipulated, the average individual in the commercial sexual exploitation industry of New York City has become a twelve-year-old girl, which I found to be incredibly disturbing. Yet due to the endless effort of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, girls and young women from ages 12 to 24 are being safely transitioned out of the life of sex trafficking, educated, and empowered to become strong, independent women. Founded by Rachel Lloyd, a victim of sexual exploitation in Britain, GEMS emphasizes the importance of every girl in the New York City community. GEMS also offers services such as court mandated sessions in which girls are given medical care, treated for sexually transmitted diseases and infections that are common for sexually exploited girls, and taught how it feels to truly be cared for without the demand of sexual favors in return. The staff members of GEMS forge relationships with each girl they aid, provide both crisis and transitional housing, and assist girls in enrolling to educational institutions.
As I was able to learn more about the issue of sex trafficking, I often became upset with the fact that I was previously extremely ignorant of the suffering that occurred in my own community. Initially, the issue of sex trafficking seemed too large to conquer; however, once I understood the practices of GEMS, I realized that each girl is an individual, just like me, and if I could just help one girl in New York City, I would make an enormous difference and change her life forever. Thinking of the commercially sexually exploited girls and young women as individuals like me prompted me to feel as if I had a responsibility to help them. I also realized that educating populations as a whole about sex trafficking is essential in combating the issue. If people are aware that sex trafficking exists, they too will hopefully strive to eradicate commercial sexual exploitation. Every presentation that we made as a group may have caused someone to become as passionate about eliminating sexual exploitation as my group and I. Over the course of the project, I became increasingly hopeful that my group and I could make a genuine difference in the lives of numerous people in the New York City community. I also was able to improve both my public speaking skills and much needed ability to be more concise. In my opinion, the most challenging aspect of the project was to fit the entire presentation into a ten- minute period. I believed that every fact about sex trafficking and every feature of GEMS was important to share with our audience. My group’s original presentation introducing the social issue ran for fifteen minutes, and it was challenging to decrease the time interval.
I have remained in contact with GEMS, and I plan to continue educating as many people as possible about the vast issue of sex trafficking. I also plan to further connect GEMS to Friends Seminary as well as to attend fundraisers with my group that support GEMS and their extraordinarily positive influence on New York City.