‘They con­trolled me with money. Now I may not have as much as I used to, but it is mine.’

Sunday Times - - ACCENTS -

Let­tie*, 27, with son aged 1

“My par­ents were dead, I was 15 and living in East Lon­don. My friend and I thought we will come to Joburg and find work as ac­tresses on Gen­er­a­tions. There was no­body to tell us this was not pos­si­ble.”

The two hitched a lift to Auck­land Park, where of course they were turned away. “We didn’t know any­one. There was a man who said we should come to his place and he would help us. He took us to his flat and bought us clothes. We were happy, he took us to sa­lons and did our hair. This is the life we look­ing for.”

That evening, he sold both the girls to older men. They were paid well, lured into drink­ing al­co­hol and later, us­ing co­caine. “He bought us clothes, we felt like princesses but now I know he was tak­ing us to make money. The next day, he sent me with an old baba and I had to stay at his place. I didn’t know it was [sex work].

“We were ad­dicted, we made a lot of money but we had to give half to the man, and then we spent the rest on co­caine. Once when I found a boyfriend, he let me stay with him and gave me some money. But he was so abu­sive, he would swear and say I have no par­ents, he started beat­ing me.”

“I just broke one day. I told my­self I can’t do this. Why can’t God bless me with a mind to be­come a bet­ter woman? I told my­self it’s enough of me abus­ing my­self and let­ting men abuse me.”

For­tu­itously, a preg­nancy test turned up pos­i­tive. Let­tie found her­self at Bethany Home.

A year later, she works at a nail sa­lon.

Her lit­tle boy bounces around at her feet.

“I earn about R900 a week. It hurts me that I used to make more money in a day. That was the only work I knew. But at least this is my own and I don’t spend it on drugs or pay a pimp. I can buy what I need for my baby and we will be OK.”

Let­tie and her one-year-old son

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