Foreign Policy Blogs

Very Young Girls

When one in the US thinks of sex trafficking and exploitation, they tend to think of girls from lands with mostly unpronounceable names. Images of Russian "Natasha's", young Thai girls, girls on the streets of India, etc., however those images are not the only picture one must see in order to see the harsh reality of sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking.

While it is true that sex trafficking exists in every corner of the globe, young American girls are not immune form this demand driven plague of the flesh. Young vulnerable girls who are quite literally hunted, like animals in forest the girls are scoped out lured in by the weakness and naivety of innocence, the hunter the pimps who know how to infiltrate their minds with promises of love, affection and the attention they miss and crave.

The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 12 years old, 90% of those in the commercial sex industry have histories of abuse, thus making them easy prey in the jungle of demand and exploitation.

The film Very Young Girls, which follows the girls of NYC's GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, takes you into this harsh reality of the life of so many young All American girls. The film opens with a gritty intro into the mind of two pimps, Anthony and Chris Griffin shoot their own footage in an attempt to see their names in lights, or on MTV at the very least. Hoping for fame and fortune they used the camera to show the raw life of the very girls they exploit and essentially enslave, thankfully the same footage later put both behind bars.

"Ho Daddy", as he likes to be affectionately called, has been pimping for 6 years and when asked how many girls he had, he responded with; "I've pimped over 100 Ho's". Then his brother asked what they were going to do, he responded with; "Gona find me a Bitch, find you a Bitch, we could split a Bitch in half."

The graphic nature of the pimp languages is nothing compared to the actual life these young girls find themselves in on the streets. Insults are only the beginning of the mental breakdown and torture that these girls will face daily on the cold hard streets under the watchful eyes of their pimps.

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How does it all begin, how do these girls get lured onto the streets? Youth makes one easy prey , and girls are targeted for their naivety and vulnerability. Like hunters the pimps look for the perfect targetthey stake the girls out and woo them, learn their weaknesses and then when they have fully infiltrated they fire. Girls are lured in under the guise of girlfriends, pimps often act like the absent Father figure, caring for, protecting and buying the girls things until manipulation is second nature.

"I thought it was cool to be 12 and an old dude to be into me."

When it is all you know temptation is the chain that holds these girls innocence. Girls are often lured back by their pimps with promises of love and affection, other times its pure threats, regardless it never leads to anything better than before. Girls are overwhelmed with confusion; an emotional cocktail of fear, shame, devotion, uncertainty…lead many back to life on the streets.

The word love can become a mental shackle on a girlyou often hear the girls mention the word "dating" when speaking of pimps. When you see the everyday face of these girls you are not just struck by their stories of life on the streets, but you watch them slip into stories and banter like school girls going over the daily gossip. The girls in the film are real, their stories are shocking, but they are sadly not uncommon and they are all innocent victims who need protection, guidance and hope, thankfully they have found it in GEMS.

  • Cassandra Clifford

    You Are Invited to a Special Screening of Very Young Girls

    A Showtime documentary film depicting the realities of sex trafficking in the U.S. with moving footage and searing testimonials

    The film takes us into the work of a former sexually exploited youth,turned,activist named Rachel Lloyd, who started the New York City organization GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) to help victimized young women escape their pimps and find another way of life. We meet teenaged girls at different stages of this transition. As we come to know these girls better, they emerge as well,rounded individuals full of unexpected laughter and insight.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008
    7:00 PM , 9:00 PM E Street Cinema · 555 11th Street NW · Washington, DC 20004 $10 tickets at the door Proceeds will benefit the work of GEMS and Polaris Project Followed by Q&A with: Rachel Lloyd, Founder and Executive Director of GEMS Speakers from local agencies working against sex trafficking

    Watch the trailer at:

    Event Sponsored by: FAIR Fund, WEAVE, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Polaris Project

  • I live in VA and wanted to know how I can reach out and help. Or is there anywhere in my area that has a program that reaches out to young girls that I can be a part of trying to make a difference in there lives.


Cassandra Clifford
Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict