Home Page » Real-life stories: Involved in drugs and/or alcohol abuse or dependancy » Ex-Prostitute Who Saves The Hookers Of Harlem
Real-life stories: Involved in drugs and/or alcohol abuse or dependancy

Ex-Prostitute Who Saves The Hookers Of Harlem

By Marcus Warren

There are no angels on the streets of Harlem.   But if there were, they could hardly stand out more than a petite, 27-year-old British woman battling to rescue teenage prostitutes.

Rachel Lloyd has one big advantage over others trying to save the girls from violence, drugs, exploitation and prison:  she is herself a survivor of what she calls “The Life”.

“Everyone is going to put their own personal slant on my story,” she said in her headquarters in the New York district north of Central Park.

“Angel of Harlem is corny.   But it’s better than Drug Addict Hooker.”

Her work with the girls, and her public advocacy of their cause, has already turned her into a local celebrity.

Much of the attention has been focused on her past, a grim narrative which began with a “too much, too young” childhood on the south coast of England and led, via Germany’s vice industry, to her new life in the United States.

From her base in a converted shop in Harlem she acts as role model, elder sister and angel of mercy for teenage girls who have been led astray.

“I don’t mind sharing my own story,” she said.    “I don’t like it, but I don’t mind it if it has a purpose and people are willing to put a face to the issue.”

In New York, the face of child prostitution belongs, as a rule, to 14- or 15-year-old black girls, victims of sexual assault and broken homes, some of them with children of their own.

“Right now, if it weren’t for Rachel, I’d be out there doing the work, doing the thing,” said ‘Sparkle’ Johnson, 16, who began earning money as a prostitute three years ago.   “Before, my life was real hectic.”

A shelter, help with returning to education, leadership classes and therapy are only some of the facilities offered by Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), the organisation Ms Lloyd founded three years ago.

On one cold evening this week new, normal life for the girls was as basic as travelling downtown to the cinema.

But it can be as challenging as reclaiming them from drugs, prison and predatory pimps or repairing the damage of years spent in broken, fatherless families.

“They have a strong daddy hunger,” Ms Lloyd said of the girls.   “One problem is that they know there’s no male in the house to protect them.   And the fact that pimps make the girls call them ‘daddy’ is indicative.”Born in Stalbridge in Dorset, Rachel won a scholarship to Portsmouth High School for Girls.   But she soon dropped out and began living the life of a wild child, shop-lifting, nude modelling, drinking and taking drugs.

She fled to Germany at 17 and was sucked into the world of prostitution in Munich and Mainz.   Her body still bears the scars of brutal run-ins with pimps and boyfriends.

Salvation came in the form of a church on a United States Air Force base and a military family which employed her as a nanny.   Her only vice by then was smoking but even that provoked disapproving looks outside the church.

“I thought to myself, ‘I came off crack.   I came out of pimps.   I came off the street.   You’d better chill about the cigarettes’.”

She went to the United States as a missionary and GEMS began life on her kitchen table.   It now has six employees.

The initial impression she makes on the girls she helps, often during visits to prison, can be disconcerting.

So is her accent.   It swerves effortlessly from that of Harlem street talk, in which prostitutes are known as “ho’s”, to a lively imitation of a Dorset burr.

“She was a very strange woman,” said Quiana “Smith”, 19, a former call girl, of their first encounter.   “She had hair right down to her waist and talked funny.”

By courtesy of the Daily Telegraph 27.12.02

  Top of page  

Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy