October 08, 2009 02:00 PM

As a survivor of emotional and physical abuse, Halle Berry knows how it feels to be a victim. She also knows how it feels to overcome the abuse, and how to go on to achieve great personal and professional success. In a heartfelt letter written on behalf of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), the Academy Award-winning actress and mom-of-one announces her partnership with The Council of Daughters. A core part of GEMS’ Girls Are Not for Sale Campaign, the Council of Daughters is a new national network aimed at drawing attention to the plight of girls who have been trafficked.

In her letter, Halle calls victimized girls everywhere “her daughter,” and wonders aloud what could be “if millions of women band together to fight for the needs of girls at the national and local level.”

“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.”

Peter Kramer/AP

The Department of Justice estimates the most frequent age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the United States is 12-14 years old, and that 325,000 children in the United States are subject to sexual exploitation each year.

The problem is spotlighted in the new Showtime documentary Very Young Girls, available online and through Netflix; On October 17, you can take the One2One challenge by hosting a viewing party of the documentary, and help spread the word. Halle adds,

“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.”

To join the Council of Daughters, click here; To take the One2One challenge, click here; To make a donation to GEMS, click here.

Halle is mom to 18-month-old Nahla Ariela, her first child with partner Gabriel Aubry.

— Missy

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