Eight Resources to Learn More About Sexual Exploitation

Commercial sexual exploitation is a complicated thing.

Often times it conjures up the stereotypical imagery associated with sex trafficking—young girls bound in dark rooms with tape over their mouths.

But—commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) comes in many forms.

It affects individuals of all genders, ages, races, and socioeconomic statuses. It can sometimes involve a degree of physical entrapment—but more often involves psychological and emotional entrapment through manipulation and coercion, and a number of different types of abuse (mental, emotional, physical, sexual).

It would be impossible for us to explain in one blog how complex CSE is—but we want to point you to other resources, including the direct stories of survivors, to help you deepen your knowledge and understanding. Here are three books, four movies, and one educational opportunity that we suggest volunteers at REST and others use in order to learn more about sexual exploitation, and that may be helpful for you as well as you seek to grow in your advocacy for the exploited:


Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd

“In Girls Like Us, Lloyd reveals the dark world of commercial sex trafficking in cinematic detail and tells the story of her groundbreaking nonprofit organization: GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services. With great humanity, she shares the stories of the girls whose lives GEMS has helped—small victories that have healed her wounds and made her whole. Revelatory, authentic, and brave, Girls Like Us is an unforgettable memoir.”

Find Girls Like Us on Amazon.

Fallen by Annie Lobert

“In Fallen, Annie Lobert tells her remarkable story of surviving sex trafficking with sixteen years in the sex industry, breaking free, finding healing, and then reaching back to help others find freedom as well. This riveting memoir opens a window into a sordid, shadowy world of sex trafficking but shows just how bright God’s light can truly shine in the darkness.”

Find Fallen on Amazon.

Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dermoot Lipsky

“A longtime trauma worker, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky offers a deep and empathetic survey of the often-unrecognized toll taken on those working to make the world a better place. We may feel tired, cynical, or numb or like we can never do enough. These, and other symptoms, affect us individually and collectively, sapping the energy and effectiveness we so desperately need if we are to benefit humankind, other living things, and the planet itself. In Trauma Stewardship, we are called to meet these challenges in an intentional way—to keep from becoming overwhelmed by developing a quality of mindful presence.”

Find Trauma Stewardship on Amazon.

Don’t forget to point your browser to smile.amazon.com and set your preferred charity to Real Escape from the Sex Trade when you shop on Amazon! A portion of your purchase will be donated to REST.


Please be aware that all of these films contain graphic content, and may not be appropriate for children, and can be potentially triggering for individuals who have endured similar trauma to that which is often experienced in the sex trade, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Very Young Girls

“This is the story of a group of girls in New York City who were prostituted as early as the age of 12. They have found safe haven at GEMS, where they receive love and guidance as they try to heal and find a new direction in their young lives.”

Stream Very Young Girls on Vimeo.

I Am Jane Doe

“Called “a gripping legal thriller” (Esquire); “a powerful call to action” (The Los Angeles Times); “viscerally emotional” (The Washington Post), I AM JANE DOE chronicles the epic battle that several American mothers are waging on behalf of their middle-school daughters, victims of sex trafficking on Backpage.com, the classified advertising website that for years was part of the iconic Village Voice. Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich and Karen Silkwood, these mothers have stood up on behalf of thousands of other mothers, fighting back and refusing to take no for an answer.”

Stream I am Jane Doe on Netflix.


“This in-depth documentary examines all sides of America’s sex trafficking trade, which destroys lives as it generates $3 billion a year.”

Stream Tricked on Netflix.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls

“Modern slavery.” It sounds like a paradox. Hasn’t humanity progressed? Didn’t we leave slavery dead on the battlefields of the American Civil War? Didn’t social reformers like Lincoln and Wilberforce legislate against such cruelty over a hundred years ago? So we had thought. But, with over 27 million enslaved people in the world, human trafficking is once again the battlefront of the century.”

Rent or buy Nefarious: Merchant of Souls on Amazon.

REST Training Day:

If you’re in the Seattle area and want to learn more, you’re invited to our upcoming REST Training Day. This event is designed for community members who seek to understand the basic dynamics of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. It is also the first step to becoming a direct service volunteer at REST.

Our next Training Day is January 26, 2019, and they are offered quarterly.

Getting educated is the first step to becoming an advocate in the fight against sexual exploitation—and we’re excited you’re taking the first steps!