Exploiting Body and Soul

"Susannah"* was raped by her stepfather when she was 11 years old. The exploitation at home spurred her to run away. On the streets, she was recruited by a gang in Cape Town, South Africa, managed by Nigerian organized-crime syndicates. For girls, initiation into the gang includes being raped and prostituted by the boys in the gang. In the gang life, Susannah was introduced to drugs and repeatedly raped. By the time Susannah turned 12, she had already been betrayed by her family, raped at home and on the street, and was addicted to drugs.

I first met Susannah at a conference on resource programs for exploited women and children hosted by Shared Hope International. This beautiful 18-year-old woman from South Africa had been out of the gang less than a year before my meeting with her. In the midst of our meetings she shocked us with her bold statement: "I am a person!" It was a magnificent moment celebrating the recognition of her dignity.

Susannah told us about being "independent" during her life of prostitution, although she was managed by a pimp, and her "clients" from Nigeria, the United States, and Australia introduced her to drugs and facilitated her habit. A girlfriend in a treatment program introduced her to Satanism. Susannah told us about rituals that included getting tattoos while renouncing the person of Jesus. When I first met her she had 13 tattoos - one, on her stomach, was of an upside-down cross.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2005
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