Trickery and Escape: Stories of South African Human Trafficking Survivors


SEATTLE — Human trafficking is an internationally illegal act that is impacting the lives of victims worldwide. These traffickers are known to defraud women, men and children, especially young girls, and coerce them into oppressive situations. The most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation.

The Large Number of Human Trafficking Survivors in South Africa

In South Africa, campaigners and organizations claim that 30,000 children are smuggled into the nation yearly. Most cases of human trafficking in South Africa include sex trafficking, child labor, domestic servitude, organ smuggling, forced surrogacy, illegal child adoptions and debt bondage.

South Africa has become known as a source, transit country and destination for human trafficking victims. Human trafficking mainly happens between regions and externally across South African borders. Within South Africa, human trafficking victims are targeted in economically disadvantaged territories, such as the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape and the Free State.

Putting an end to trafficking will not be achievable unless action is taken towards altering the conditions that leave people vulnerable and open to exploitation. Distributing information and establishing a greater recognition of these acts through advocacy and sharing the stories of those who have survived such circumstances can stop human trafficking. These are the stories of two South African human trafficking survivors.

Grizelda Grootboom’s Story

Grizelda Grootboom was only 18 years old when she was tricked by someone she thought was a friend and was sold into sex trafficking.

As a child, Grizelda lived in a shelter in the Mother City. She had big dreams of becoming a singer, an actress or a dancer. However, all that changed when one of her close friends died violently. She began abusing drugs and hanging out on the streets.

When Grizelda turned 18, she was considered old enough to look after herself and had to leave the orphanage. With nowhere to go, Grizelda contacted one of her friends who she met during one of her drug sessions, not knowing this friend would later lead her down the path of destruction.

It did not take much time for Grizelda to get caught up in this world of deception and abuse. She was repeatedly locked up‚ drugged‚ beaten and raped. One night after refusing a client‚ she was beaten so badly that she woke up in a Johannesburg hospital a month later.

After being released from the hospital, times were tough as she moved from one shelter to the next, but Grizelda tried as much as possible to stay away from the temptations of taking clients and rebuild her life.

Grizelda has been surviving for years and now helps other trafficking victims. Her story has caught the attention of many worldwide, and she has been able to use this attention to publish a memoir, and even received an invitation to address the U.N. General Assembly.

Nomsa’s Story

Nomsa’s story began when she first entered an ordinary taxi on an ordinary day in one of South Africa’s big cities. When she got inside, the driver pointed a gun at her and drove for almost 30 minutes until he came to a sudden halt.

Another vehicle approached from behind with men inside. They dragged her out of her seat and threw her in the trunk of their car, where two other girls laid inside.

Despite being drugged, Nomsa was able to jump out of the car and flag someone down for help. The young South African woman promptly informed the authorities about her ordeal and told them of the other girls who had also been kidnapped.

But the reactions from the police were indifferent. They did nothing. Aside from the disinterest of the police, Nomsa was not offered any medical assistance or counseling. In fact, she receives calls from unknown numbers on a daily basis, which she believes to be from the trafficking syndicate.

Nomsa is one of the few human trafficking survivors that was able to escape before her fate turned into something far worse.

It is crucial to involve human trafficking survivors, like Griselda and Nomsa, in a global plan to fight trafficking because of their firsthand knowledge of the issue. No one should fall prey to these traffickers and it is imperative to keep those that are vulnerable safe.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr


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