Rachel is a survivor of mental and physical abuse during her childhood in the United Kingdom, and was exploited in the sex industry as a teenager in Germany. At the age of 22, Rachel moved to the USA and was shocked to see girls as young as 12 being sold on the streets of New York City.
Rachel founded GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) at her kitchen table with just 30 dollars and a borrowed computer. Since then, she and GEMS have transformed the lives of thousands of girls by offering love and practical support.
Rachel and GEMS have also pushed through more child-friendly laws and systems, including New York’s Safe Harbor Act – the first law in the US giving children who have been forced to sell sex the right to support and protection, instead of punishment.
Rachel’s fight has brought about a change in society, from treating the girls affected as criminals, to seeing them as victims, and then survivors and leaders.
Every year, 400 girls and young women receive direct services from Rachel and GEMS. Some 1,500 girls are reached via preventive programs, and over 1,300 professionals including social workers and police officers receive training about CSEC and girls’ rights.
In the photo, Rachel stands with young women who are members of GEMS and a little girl who accompanied her mother to the GEMS office on the day the photo was taken!
Several of the girls and young women featured in the stories about Rachel and GEMS have had their names changed and their ages excluded.
This is in order to protect their identities.
Photo: Joseph Rodriguez