In 2009, Fuel introduced Academy Award-winning actor-philanthropist Halle Berry to Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, the nation’s largest organization serving girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Halle helped GEMS launch The Council of Daughters, a national network of women working to protect and empower girls, by collaborating with Fuel on the letter below calling on women across America to help build a world where girls are celebrated, not sold.
Being a girl isn’t easy. Today in New York City, a girl will flee an abusive home, only to be approached by a pimp-trafficker who will promise her love and protection. He will not deliver on these promises. Instead, he will assault and degrade her, and later sell her repeatedly to johns.
I have never met this girl, but she is my daughter.
In Houston, a girl trafficked and sold by a pimp will be arrested. Most likely, she will not be viewed as a victim of child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. She will be deemed a ‘teen prostitute’ and sent to jail. It will devastate her but she will have no one to tell her she is loved, that she will be okay, that she is not to blame.
She is my daughter.
In Chicago, a girl will have her picture taken and posted on a popular social networking site, a virtual marketplace for johns interested in buying very young girls. Her pimp will force her to meet these johns in motels and brothels and apartments around the city, and will punish her mercilessly if she refuses.
She is my daughter. And in my hometown of Cleveland, a girl will arrive in an emergency room with extensive injuries resulting from a brutal assault by a john. The doctors may treat her, but it’s possible they will not have the training to identify her as a victim and connect her with services that can help her heal from her physical and emotional trauma.
She is my daughter. Across the nation, between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk for child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. In most cases, resources do not exist to care for them, help them heal, advocate for them in the courts, and empower them to reach their full potential. That’s why I too am a member of The Council of Daughters, working with you to mobilize women and girls to encourage stronger legislation, better services, increased community awareness, and real social change to protect and empower girls who have been trafficked as they fight to recover from their exploitation.
Imagine what we can accomplish if millions of women band together to fight for the needs of girls at the national and local level. Imagine the power we can wield if we all agree that every girl in America deserves the right to grow up and live her dreams. Imagine the enormous change that is possible if we each commit to a simple pledge: Every girl is my daughter and I will do whatever I can, whenever I can, to protect the girls I know and the girls I may never meet.
Together, we can ensure that girls are educated and empowered to know their self-worth and beauty. We can demand that service providers, doctors, educators and police officers are informed and prepared to respond to the needs of children who have been victimized. We can ensure that comprehensive recovery services are available in all 50 states. We can help young survivors rise to the forefront of a nation-wide movement to end child sex trafficking in America. We can build a nation where girls are celebrated, not sold.
I need you to do three things for me today. First, if you haven’t seen it yet, I want you to watch the GEMS film Very Young Girls to learn just how much girls in recovery need our support. The film is available online and on DVD at Netflix. Watch it this week or accept GEMS’ One2One Challenge and share it with a friend on our National Viewing Night.
Second, I encourage you to donate $10, $25, $50 or any amount to support the GEMS Girls Fund. Inspire a friend by inviting them over to watch the film with you and make a donation to GEMS in honor of this friend. Any amount is a gift.
And finally, I want you to invite someone new to join the Council.
I know we can do this. I know we can change the world for girls.