Louise, are you are comfortable to share your story?
I am very comfortable. I am comfortable to tell people, I am comfortable to tell the world. I share my story at a lot of different events, at churches. I am not that, anymore. I am now who I was always supposed to be. I am not a girl of the night anymore, I am the person that God has created me to be. I can go anywhere and share my story, it will make people see that there is still hope. All is not gone, all is not lost. It doesn’t matter how far you are gone, how deep the pit is that you are in. There is always hope.
I feel like we have jumped to the end, let us go to the beginning. It was eight years of hell were your words. Eight years before what space were you in to find yourself in a position where you considered becoming a lady of the night?
I love my parents, they are amazing people. It is the only thing I am a bit uncomfortable with…
I want you to be comfortable, I don’t even have to show your face, I only want to tell your story.
Okay, so I love my parents they were good to me. When I was twenty-one I fell pregnant with my son who is now twenty-two. You can do the maths, I am now forty-three. It really hurt my dad, he basically disowned me, kicked me out onto the streets. I was by myself, all alone. I had the baby and lived with my sister for a little bit. It wasn’t a good situation. I basically had nowhere to go and I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether I will stay on the streets with my child or choose something different. When he was just over a year, I left him. I took him to my mother’s sister. I dropped him off. I said I would come back. I did… eight years later. I completely abandoned him, I got on a train and ended up in the city. I saw an ad in the newspaper, I went to go meet this guy… I looked young, very young. I looked like I was sixteen. I met him and that is how I got into it. It was him and his uncle, they were from Austria. They import girls from all over. I worked there for a season and then came to Sea Point, where my life completely fell apart.
Sorry to cut you in, these girls, were they coming willingly from all over the world?
As far as I know, yes. It didn’t look like they were forced to be there. It looked like they wanted to be there. Girls as young as fourteen years old. Where I worked was a house almost like a home. I remember going for the first time into a brothel. It kind of opened my eyes to the reality of the world I was living in, but I was sucked in so deep, that there was no way that I could get out. I was in it and now I had to stay in it. You even change your name, because I believe when you change your identity and the direction of your path, you change your name. So I changed my name, for eight years nobody called me by my real name. I lived in the brothel for about two years. We stayed there on the premises, we never saw daylight. I can’t remember ever going out into the sun for about two years. So we slept there, we would wake up at 6pm and get ready for the night shift. We would get drunk and get high.. go to sleep… get up… order food, deliveries, so you don’t get out. I couldn’t stay there anymore, I was so broken. I just wanted to get out. There was another girl who used to work there, I have lost all contact with her. We found a place together down in Sea Point. We stayed together but we still worked at the same place. I think that was the lowest lowest point of my life, I felt pain and sorrow physically in my body.
One day I heard the doorbell ring, it was now in the day because I couldn’t work at night anymore. By this point I was completely hooked on drugs and alcohol. When I walked to the door there was this really good looking guy, I spent an hour with him and then he disappeared. He was different, he treated me differently. He made me feel like a person. I remember when he left thinking that I was scum, I’m dirt, no man will ever marry me. No man will ever just hold my hand, hug me, want to marry me. He stayed on my mind, I don’t know why. Two and a half months later he came back again.
I have been married to him, this year for eleven years. He told me, he would take me out of there and look after me. He told me I needed to leave there, I could not stay there. He said that whatever I needed to leave he would give me. He said he wasn’t rich but that he had a good job and he would take care of me. He took me out of there and took care of me for a long time. I had no qualifications, I didn’t know how to do anything. I didn’t know who I was. For about a year and a half I didn’t work, he looked after me. I was so broken, I was a mess. I remember times when he would come home and I would be stoned and drunk. He just kept loving me and telling me that somewhere inside me there was a diamond and that he was going to find it. I was all tough and hard on the outside but on the inside sat a diamond.
So we have been married for eleven years and we have two children and we are in the process of adopting another child. God sent him on my path to get me out of there. There was a church on the corner where we moved to, every time I saw the church I wanted to weep, I didn’t know God could save me, I didn’t deserve anything. Our marriage at this time was a mess because I was a mess. I was depressed, my husband had his own issues. One day I decided I was going to go into the church. I walked in and then ran away. Everybody inside looked so perfect. I was so filthy and so disgusting. I didn’t fit in. A year went by, I saw an ad in the paper for a moms group, a lady came to fetch me, they were from the church on the corner and that was it. I got saved there. We are elders in the church now, we bring our children up in the church. We love Jesus passionately if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here. There are so many places I went into that I shouldn’t have come out alive. There are things that happened to people while they were there that never happened to me. I never got hurt, beaten or raped.
Do you feel people judge you by your past?
People will always judge, there is always that one person. But it doesn’t bother me, I live with no shame, regrets or guilt. My past is dead, the girl who was that person, died along with it. It’s people’s own brokenness in their own heads and hurts that causes them to judge others.
Drugs are obviously a very large problem in that world…
For the better part of eight years, I think there were two years where I didn’t take drugs. I was introduced to it very innocently. I was very tired one night and one of the girls I stayed with said she had something that would give me a bit of energy. She gave me ecstasy, within fifteen minutes I felt it, I could get up. My friend explained to me what it was, from that time I used it almost every day. I used cocaine, ecstasy, acid, I smoked rocks, I did buttons once or twice and I did heroin. So I did everything, I think it is a way of coping, of numbing to forget what is going on. Sexual sin is the only sin where you sin against your own body. It is literally chipping away at your soul bit by bit. There isn’t one girl who isn’t either drunk, high or stoned.
You said that your husband made you feel like a person, it must have been a long process from feeling so broken to recovery. What is the process of recovery?
When I first saw him, he looked at me… it was so strange, I can’t explain it. It was almost like somebody actually looked at me. Really looked at me. He commented on my smile and really meant it. It felt like the first time someone was really seeing the me that was inside of that empty shell I had put out there. It was a long hard journey, I don’t think I am completely healed because every day is a journey. I don’t feel condemned by what I have done any more. The healing really started when I became a Christian. I went through deliverance, hectic deliverance. God took me on a really really hard…there were times when I could not pick myself off the floor because of the pain that I was feeling. Healing? Am I completely healed? I am completely whole but there is still more that can be healed.
I think the better question for me to ask you, is if you have forgiven yourself?
It took a long time. It is easy to forgive other people but when you have done something to yourself knowingly it is much harder. Our church had a celebration, it was the ten-year celebration of the church. They asked us to share our stories at a banquette with 250 people. That was the first time I shared my story publicly. Two weeks was a time where I had to face what I had done to myself. I remember one of my friend’s moms asked me what was the hardest thing about this. To which I told her that I had done it to myself. Nobody forced me, I did it to myself. I have forgiven myself, it is liberating.
Let’s talk about the stigma and judgement placed on those that are a part of the world of the ladies of the night?
Somebody once asked me what it was really like. I told them that you have to live it to know it. It is easy to pass judgement on someone, that is doing something wrong in their eyes. The place where I worked there were people living on top. So I know all about people talking behind hands, funny looks…here she comes… we know what you are doing… Other people judge but they forget that my sin is no worse than somebody stealing or murder, if I can go that far. People judge… walk a day in my shoes, a few years ago and then judge.
There are many reasons girls end up in that position…
Most girls were abused as kids, they had no family, they were kids that grew up on the street. They were beautiful girls but broken and lost, they had nothing, no self-worth, no sense esteem. When you have no sense esteem or self-worth it is easier to go where I have been. Some of the girls were dropped off by their fathers, I remember the one girl’s father dropped her off because he wanted to extend their house, she was eighteen. Husbands dropped their wives because they need money.
In the eight years you were there, did you see any girls get themselves out of that situation on their own? How many girls forced their way out of that life?
Not a lot. Since I have been out I have only met three girls that have come out of it. Most of them grow old in there. They stay forever, they become the madam, they open up their own place with their own girls. It’s not something that you just walk away from because it becomes who you are. While you do it, you become that and that is all you know. You forget everything else. Unless you have someone who is going to love and take care of you and accept you, its hard.
I can’t really talk about that because I never… once again I had Gods hand in my life, I don’t know why he saved me. It’s something that is real. Something that people live with in there. I don’t think they tell people, I remember there were two girls specifically who did stuff without a condom. Men would come back in disbelief that these girls had suggested not using a condom.
Did the girls get tested?
I don’t know now but no not then, I went and got myself tested. I was just very protected, I never had any STD’s, nothing. There is one person that I knew that, a guy that was doing it as well.
We speak a lot about the ladies but there are also men working…
Yes. They call them ‘rent boys’. Most of them are not homosexual but they are rent boys for men and not for ladies.
Lots of ladies as well? It’s not just men…
Yes, ladies, couples, drug parties, sex parties whatever you can think of that is bad, anything goes.
Were you guys protected by the police?
There is no protection, not when I worked. There was one security company but it was more like where you pay fees to be protected. There is no police protection, they don’t come, they don’t check up on you. Nothing.
There has been a debate about legalizing prostitution, what are your thoughts?
I think that girls are going to do what they are going to do. They are going to do it anyway. I think South Africa needs to pass a law of protection, serious protection for these girls. There were girls that were brutally beaten up, raped, sodomized and hurt. Yes, they are ladies of the night but they are still human.
Your kids are now around about the same age as when you first chose that life for yourself, what do you tell your own children about the decisions which they make?
We bring our children up in the church, with grace. We tell them that sometimes we make the wrong choices because we are stuck in a corner and there is nowhere to go. I am not excusing what I did. I will tell anyone my story who can take a lesson from my life.