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Human trafficking victim speaks out

Written by Dineo Mrali and Noluthando Motswai
Grizelda Grootboom headed for Johannesburg, from Cape Town, with the promise of a job and a bright future.

Grootboom was only 18 years old when she was lured to Gauteng by a friend who promised her a good job. She soon realised that it was a lie and that she had been lured by human traffickers.

“When I got there my friend led me to a house in Yeoville, where I was tied up. She told me that it was her place, so I believed her.”Grizelda Grootboom is a human trafficking survivor. She now supports fellow survivors. Image: Grizelda Grootboom

Grootboom’s ordeal lasted two weeks. She was trapped in prostitution and moved from one province to another by her captures.

“I was taught how to strip and started using drugs. I couldn’t go to the police because I was on drugs,” she said.

She was released when her captors recruited new girls, and landed up on the streets as a drug addict.

Grootboom, now 36, eventually decided to book herself into a drug rehabilitation centre.

“I went into rehab for one year, but after finishing I ended up back on the streets because I had nowhere to go.  It took me about six years to get clean.”

At age 26, Grootboom was referred to a shelter that takes care of abandoned babies. 

“I worked there for a year. After that my spiritual journey started with the Salvation Army, which is when I gathered the strength to start my life again.”

The experiences and challenges that she had encountered led her to become an activist and make people more aware of human trafficking.

Grootboom’s life has changed. She now supports fellow survivors who are undergoing rehabilitation, and she is the author of a book, called Exit, which details her life on the street.