Anyone can fall prey to human trafficking and only 1% of those taken are ever rescued.
This is the warning from Charlene Louw, the founder of Zion Foundation International, a non-profit company fighting this form of modern-day slavery.
“It’s not only about being snatched off the street. The trafficker will groom a child by creating a friendship using social media.
Even men fall prey, eager to work and earn only to be abused and molested.”
She was speaking at an event in Heathfield on Saturday to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Ms Louw said she was working at a safe house for victims of trafficking. The house is known to the Bulletin, but neither its name nor location can be revealed to protect those staying there.
Grizelda Grootboom, the guest speaker at the event, told of how she became a victim of human trafficking.
Ms Grootboom grew up in Woodstock and when her mother died, her father turned to alcohol.
She learnt to survive on the streets before moving to Johannesburg to start a new life. But her friend sold her into a life of sex and drugs. Ms Grootboom was tied up, gang raped for two weeks and forced to work as a sex slave.
At the age of 25, suicidal, she found her way to Home of Hope.
But this was not to be the end of her story. What followed was a hand-to-mouth life of being pimped and using drugs to sustain herself.
She is now an activist and author of Exit!, published in 2015 by Jacana, which tells the story of her life of prostitution and how she escaped from it.
Ms Grootboom spends her time giving talks to school pupils. She represented South Africa in 2017 at the annual Human Trafficking Conference.
According to anti-human trafficking non-profit organisation, A21, more than 53% of the population is vulnerable to trafficking.
South Africa, the organisation says, is known as a source, transit, and destination country, with an estimated 155 000 people enslaved. The beauty and perception of economic prosperity lure people from all over Africa and Asia with the promise of a better life.
To find out more about the Zion Foundation, contact Debrah Bentham at 071 625 8000, or Charlene Louw at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 063 390 5592.