Last month, we shared an article about Grizelda Grootboom who had escaped from sex trafficking and wrote the book Exit. You can read her story here. This month we continue with a series of questions and her responses.
What challenges do you continue to face?
Relationships are hard. When guys find out they make assumptions. Either they think you are HIV+ or else that you’re good in bed. I don’t want to be stereotyped that way.
I still struggle with my health. I am down for a week out of every four. Expectations of others. The memories, they never leave. Thinking about the women that didn’t make it.
Reminding myself that I don’t belong to anyone. Getting myself back. Getting my own income and my own place. Forgiving. I still have a lot of revenge thoughts. I don’t know what I’d do if I saw that girl who sold me. It’s something I don’t know if I’ll ever get over.
How do you keep going?
My faith in God keeps me going. Especially when I’m feeling down, I stay in a space with Him.
What advice do you have for those who have escaped?
I know how painful it is to get out. Even when you do escape, you still live there in your mind. It’s you and your mind only when you’re living a life of slavery. You get used to that zone. You play it out in your head all the time even after getting out. You develop coping mechanisms. So be patient with yourself. Take your time, I know it’s hard.
How can we help survivors without re-exploiting them?
Survivors need a support system that is not benefiting financially from them. Family is important, but there can be a lot of challenges with family–shame, confusion, blame, denial, etc. Some family members even say that’s just the way it is. Finding a support system outside of the family is crucial. Having someone there that understands the range of moods and doesn’t push or have expectations.
Never tell me how much funding I get. If survivors become advocates, protect them from language about funding. Always be aware of language. But be honest. Survivors can sense lies and manipulation.
Be careful about forcing talking. Let them take their time. It is hard to talk about because you relive it each time and sometimes you don’t want to go there.
What’s the difference between sex slavery and prostitution?
Not much. Both women sleep with ten men per day. Both are typically forced. Only difference is the one doesn’t have a pimp.
How can we help more women out of prostitution?
We need to criminalize the buyer. Get the women off the street and put them in safe houses. Ask them why they are on the streets. No one dreams of growing up to be a prostitute. No one dreams of that life as the way to make it in this world. Poverty, drugs, being trafficked, these are the reasons women become prostitutes. And pornography is the core reason for higher rates of prostitution.
What do you teach when you are able to present to school kids?
Social media techniques, manipulation mindset, gender abuse violence.
I’ve created my own curriculum that has been tested in five schools.
I will take a sheet with random questions about prostitution, trafficking and rape on it. Then I separate the kids in two groups. 4 girls 4 boys. I have them write on the sheet their answers and then swap the sheets. Then we all discuss. It becomes very exciting.
What would you say to school girls?
Be aware of the glamour of showing off your body. There is a social media temptation to post pictures of yourself half-naked. But if you do, you’re not going to make it to 25 and have the life you want. You will be taken into the industry in one way or another. Remember you’re worth more than that.
To moms and dads?
Dads, make your girls feel special so they don’t seek it out elsewhere. Be a father figure. Be a powerful caring safe place. A father should be a girl’s hero. Let her feel safe in your arms.
Moms, stop being ignorant thinking it will never happen. Especially mothers of faith. Be aware. Protect your girls.
To both parents, be vigilant. And be available, as a parent and as a friend.
What is the most satisfying part of your work now?
Having girls open up to me. Girls will come up to me and are able to share their experience because I’ve been open about mine. Being able to educate kids in schools. I had one girl come up to me two months later saying, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” That was satisfying, but I had to tell her, “No, no, you don’t want to go through what I’ve been through to be like me.”
What are your goals and aspirations now?
To set up a conference just for survivors, crush the media, eventually be able to have a seat in parliament to help bring justice to women, and change the male culture and the mindset that women are objects to be used. Get an education. I love writing. I want to learn how to write better. My top goal, what I would absolutely love, is for someone to come to me with the funding to be able to educate every kid in South Africa about sex trafficking.