Turning pain into purpose

Mpho Petetsane is a human trafficking survivor from Lesotho. Her mother was a domestic worker before she passed, and Mpho is now a double orphan. She has kindly shared her story in the hope that she can help others.

Mpho’s story

I left with my cousin’s sister to a promised job in Johannesburg. It was dark when we got to the taxi rank. My sister advised and warned that I do everything that my new employers ask me to do. As a young adult, desperate for a job, I quickly agreed and promised I would, convincing myself that whatever it is, I will adapt. 

I was very excited when two ladies and a gentleman finally arrived to pick me up. Introductions were made, and my cousin’s sister left for her work. We got into the car and left, too. After a short drive, we arrived at our destination—a yard with a very high wall with multiple smaller units inside. I was locked into my own little unit and instructed to sleep. Due to travel fatigue, I slept straight into the next day.

Continual rape, drugs, and other issues

In the morning, a lady came to my unit to check on me and instructed me to bathe. While preparing myself for a bath, I heard an Indian man come in, and the lady left me with him. He advanced at me and started taking his clothes off. I got scared; I screamed, shouted, and fought him as he tried to force himself on me. My cousin’s sister was called, and they told her I was causing problems. 

When she arrived, she rudely told me to comply despite me telling her the man tried to rape me. She then assisted these men in chaining me up and undressing me, allowing them to take my virginity carelessly. Each man had their time with me. I was raped repeatedly that night. This became my new reality; every day, different men would come to lie with me for different lengths of time depending on the amount of money they paid. Eventually, I adjusted to this sickening life so much that I would even hold a conversation with these men—these clients.

I was continuously injected with drugs or some form of medication to stop my period. One day, I woke up with a patch across my stomach. I had no idea what had happened. I got really sick. Different men continued to sleep with me, with or without protection, until it got so bad, I developed vaginal infections. The patch across my stomach was also not cared for, so it kept getting worse, but this did not stop the men from lying with me. I kept praying to God to deliver me, although, at this point, I had lost all hope in living.

Rescue and a lonely homecoming

One day, a client who happened to be a Mosotho man came to my unit. It was his first time there, and he was working in the illegal mine. I told him my story. He could relate to our struggles back home. Understanding the circumstances that led me there, he promised to alert the police about this place. For the first time in a long time, though with very little reason to hope, I decided to trust him. In the morning, the police came, and they rescued me. The police told me they were going to lock my cousin’s sister up. I was taken to the hospital and deported back home. 

Upon arriving home, I did not want to meet anyone because I was afraid of being judged and rejected. I had no money. I was sick and could not go out by myself since the abuse had left me almost unable to walk. Upon realizing that I was back in Lesotho, my uncle threatened to kill me if I was the one who had his daughter jailed. 

This was the darkest time of my life. I needed support, but I had no one. I needed someone to take care of me, but my extended family did not even bother. In fact, they hated me. I decided to call my mother’s employer. I was just trying my luck. To my good fortune, without asking many questions, she sent her son out to get me. Due to my critical health condition, he immediately took me to the hospital.

At the hospital, I was told that I was seven months pregnant, and I began to understand that I may have been used as a drug mule. The patch across my stomach was from an operation used to hide drugs. Because I was constantly drugged, I do not remember any of this. 

Turning things around with Beautiful Dream Society

The doctor in charge of the hospital ward then made arrangements for me to live in the Beautiful Dream Society’s shelter for victims of human trafficking in Maseru, Lesotho. There I would be cared for since I had been a victim of human trafficking. I had no home to return to because of the threats made by my uncle. The caring staff and house mothers at the BDS shelter helped me with ongoing medical care, food, and shelter, and they helped get my sense of dignity back. They taught me that I was worthy of love and respect. They helped me learn skills so I could become successful.

Despite the horrific events I had endured and the worry of how I would take care of my baby, I decided to keep the baby. My beautiful baby girl was born healthy. She was my only comfort after a gruesome part of my life, the only good thing that came from this inhumane experience.

Now, my baby and I are both doing well and have gone back into our community. I eventually became an intern with Beautiful Dream Society to try and help other young women like myself who have endured trauma. I thank God for Beautiful Dream Society and the help they have given me over the past couple of years!

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