I survived, let me tell you, do you know death is not the greatest loss in life, it’s actually being alive and not living. Sometimes I see people mopping around because they are broke or don’t have a job or better still they have been jilted, but if you hear my story I wonder what you will think? Well, let me let you decide…
Born into a family of 4, I was always the black sheep. My siblings all knew what they wanted to do before they got admission. I wasn’t interested in reading, I just wanted to travel. I would look forward to my uncle visiting. He was a sailor on an English ship for Yonkers. He would tell drunken stories of every port his ship actually docked at. I would imagine what it would feel like to actually go to these places. My father called me a daydreamer, my mum just said I should buckle up because no man wants to marry a drifter.
Anyway, when I turned 17, I ran away from home and joined a dance theatre managed by a German, he was really passionate about what he wanted to do and inducted us into his passionate vision. I couldn’t dance well when I started, but a few months in, I was the best dancer in my age group and gradually I became the best dancer in the whole theatre. For any show we had, our instructor would make me the lead. As I got better at dancing, I also changed physically. My boobs got bigger, my hips became wider and my shape actually turned into a figure 8. With the tight hugging clothes I wore when I danced, all eyes were on me. We got bookings to dance everywhere. Our routines were seductive, entertaining and captivating at the same time. Once I dance, you couldn’t take your eyes off us, until we were done.
I earned big, our instructor realized that I was the star of his shows, and people booked the group for events, most especially to watch me mesmerize the audience. I got an apartment, a car and lots of nice clothes. There were gifts and proposals from young men. One of them was Uncle IK. I met him at a benefit they invited us to dance at. He was the chairperson of the occasion. After the dance, he gave me his business card, and I gave him my no. A few days later, I was at rehearsals when the instructor came in to say I had a visitor. This young man called himself Bade. He said Uncle IK sent him to pick me up. I asked him to let me finish my rehearsals.
Bade drove me to a house, which I later found out was Uncle IK’s guest house. They invited me to sit in a study and wait for him. Shortly after he came to join me, he looked much younger than the last time I saw him. He came over and shuck my hand and said it was nice to see me. His smile was comforting, so I relaxed, he asked me what I wanted to eat and I said I wasn’t hungry.
Shortly after, another man came in. He introduced the guy as his lawyer. I was wondering what we needed a lawyer for. Anyway, he explained the reason he called me to his office; he wanted to be my guardian. He could see I had so much potential in me and as part of his guardianship, he would like to sponsor me to the Academy of performing arts in Zurich, Switzerland. If I said yes, he would process the papers immediately.
Now you must remember, I left home when I was just turning 17, I was almost 19 now and I had not been back home for a long while. This man, Uncle Ik was just slightly under 40. I guess around 38; it was obvious he had a lot of money and wanted to help. What I couldn’t figure out was why? And when I asked, he just said, I hate seeing talented people struggling; “you have this amazing gift and I would just want to help you become the best you can be”. That was my dream, to become the best dancer I could be and travel all around the world dancing. Uncle IK was promising me this by opening a huge door of opportunity for me. It delighted me, so I said YES. And he replied, “The lawyer will start drafting the guardianship papers immediately”. Within 3 months, he had filed for guardianship, taken me to the Swiss embassy, paid my tuition at the Academy and viola I was on my way to Zurich.
While there, Uncle IK will call, send me money every month and even popped in twice to visit me and find out how I was doing. Gradually I found his attention loving, I missed him when he didn’t call; I longed for his visits, even a text or email from him I would read them repeatedly. He made my dream come true. I trusted him. I fantasized about being his wife and I couldn’t wait to finish my course.
Soon, I finished my dance course, passed with a distinction and even bagged the highest grade attainable in the academy. For my graduation, Uncle IK came. That night I was ready for him to propose, or at least ask me to be his woman. I believed all his help was because he loved me and wanted to marry me, but he didn’t. After the party, he just said good night, gave me a sisterly peck on the forehead and went to his room. I was disappointed and confused at the same time. Why was this man doing this? What did he want from me? As I cried myself to sleep, I asked myself the question, Was I not good enough for him?
Anyway, we flew back to Johannesburg, where he said an apartment was waiting for me, and he wanted me to start a dance troupe. He had already auditioned some dancers and shortlisted them for me to pick the final ones. As soon as I settled in, I re auditioned the finalist and picked out 25 girls and boys that would make up our dance company.
As soon as the dance company opened its doors and our audition tapes circulated, jobs came in. Mostly to dance with famous artists in their music videos, a few stage shows and a handful of events. Fully booked for the year, life was good. But Uncle Ik was still missing in my life. I still couldn’t figure out what he wanted with me. Anyway, I plunged myself into work and tried to forget about him.
Then one Sunday, early in the morning, I had just gotten back from an all-night dance show, when I got a text from Uncle IK asking me to see him first thing in the morning at his suite in Sandton towers. My heart skipped a beat. I could hardly sleep. By 5 am, I was up, had a bath, got ready and drove to his place. When I walked in, all my girls in the dance group were in his living room. It surprised me to see them but went into his study to see him. As soon as I walked him, he stood up to give me a hug, then introduced me to two white men, whom he said were his friends from Italy. He explained they were opening a new club in Naples and wanted some of us to come whoa the crowd on that day. Pleased we had a foreign gig, which meant someone internationally recognised us, but something was nagging at the back of my mind, couldn’t quite put a finger on it. After discussions, I selected 12 of my dancers, including myself. The event was in 3 weeks.
Two weeks later we landed in Italy, a bus was waiting for us at the airport, and the driver had my name on a board. He collected our passports and said he had to show them to immigration as we drove away from the airport. One hour later we were driven into a big compound with about 3 large mansions, we all got down and the driver ushered us in, he asks us to sit down in a large living room.
Shortly after the Italian man who came to Uncle IK brought 2 ladies and started speaking to them in Italian and pointing at us, he didn’t even acknowledge me. When he left, the lady finally spoke in English and yelled one word, “STRIPE”
We were all taken aback, no one made any move to obey her, then she clapped her hands twice and 2 men with guns came in , then she said “let’s try this again, STRIPE” the guys raised their guns and pointed it at us at the same time and wow! We stripped so fast, all we had on were our bras and pants. As we stood there shivering from the cold air conditioner, she asked us to remove our bras. At this point we didn’t want to die, the men were standing pointing guns at us, so we all did slowly, crying. One by one, the woman looked at our teeth, faces, and examined our breasts. Then she ushered us into a large Turkish bath, where women were waiting to scrub us down. That day they scrubbed us so hard from head to toe, then massaged us all over with fresh scenting oil. After , they put us in another room with dentist looking chairs, where our teeth were whitened, and then we had bikini waxes.
Afterwards, dressed in nothing but silk robes, they ushered us back into the buses. When we got to the club, they gave us a sandwich, forced us to eat it and then an injection was administered to us. As the doctor pressed the needle into our thighs, he made a crude remark, “will keep you going and you won’t even fill a thing.” We were all crying we could only imagine what they were preparing us for. After about an hour, we all felt light-headed and suggestive, and that’s when they ushered us onto a stage naked in front of an audience of almost 100 men. The men howled as we danced and performed seductive acts on each other. All the while, out of our minds. At the end of the night, I saw how much money we had gotten. The Italian man collected it all. And all I remember was them picking us up and waking up in a bedroom naked with a serious headache.
The next morning, I crawled into the bathroom and sat under the shower and cried. I didn’t know what was happening to us or to me in particular. I had to call Uncle IK. One of the Italian men was in the living room. His security guard tried to prevent me from walking into the living room, but he waved them off, so they let me through. I told him what was happening to us was unacceptable, and we wanted to go back home. He laughed and said, “I own you now my dear, speak to your Mr. IK”. He handed me the phone, and I dialled his no, IK picked it up and said “hello”, I told him what happened, and to my horror, he just laughed and said, “baby it’s okay, that’s your new life now, these guys paid so much money for you, it was too much to resist, am sorry but be a good girl, don’t disappoint me, dance your heart out, when they are done with you, they will send you all back, please don’t call again” and he dropped the phone.
At that moment, it just dawned on me that IK sold us as sex slaves. I couldn’t believe Uncle IK had done this and to make matters worse, he was my guardian, so nobody will look for me and as for the other girls he properly gave their parents money and said we moved abroad for a better life. Still in shock, as the realisation dawned on me, the Italian man was laughing. I cried and ran to the other bedrooms to inform the girls of our new fate. And that’s when I found out, that all the girls had agreed for Uncle IK to be their guardian too, so nobody was going to know where we were, not to talk of reporting that we were missing. Uncle Ik had planned this well. They were also runaways like me.
This went on for months. They drugged us, then put on a stage naked and asked us to dance and perform acts on each other. I wasn’t aware that once I was high on drugs, my amazing dance skills intensified. I danced so well.
One day, one of our handlers at the house came to get me, we were never allowed to leave the mansion on our own except to be driven to the club to perform. So I was surprised when they led me into a waiting car alone and they fully clad me. We got to this house, and the handler rang the bell, left me standing there and drove off. I didn’t know what was happening. Shortly after the front door opened and I was ushered in. A middle-aged man, I guess he was Russian, asked me to sit, he said he had seen me dance and fell in love with me. He wanted me to spend a week with him. I didn’t know what to say. Shortly after I arrived, he offered me a drink, and he came over and gave me an injection, he said, “I am told this is what you like”. A few minutes later I was gone. When I came too, I was lying in a bed with silk sheets, naked. That routine went on for weeks, with different men coming to the house. My routine became eating, injection, and then a tablet to stop infection. Once I got the injection, I was not myself. I performed anything on anyone.
A few years went by, and I was now owned by an Italian mob, a full-fledged drug addict, high-class escort and could speak a bit of Italian, I was 26 and they put me in charge of new intakes from Africa. You must understand that we were all beautiful, tall and had amazing shapes. I was a special bread mixed race. My mum was white south African and my dad was Nigerian. So even if we weren’t naked, men would still want us. These Italian men knew we were their cash cows, so they guarded us jealously.
One evening, my Italian boss came to the house and said I should get ready for a high-class diplomat that needed my service for the weekend. I had become their best asset; a beautiful dancer and a master of coition. He took me to a 5 star hotel and left to wait. A few minutes later this black man walks in, at first I didn’t know where he was from. Then he asked my name, I told him Ebony; he said no my real name; I told him and he said how did you get here. Apparently, this man recognized me from my days of dancing with my company back in Johannesburg years ago. He said his company in Capetown invited my dance group when they had a 10th-year anniversary party a few years ago.
I could not believe it and could only imagine what must be going through his mind. I broke down crying. happy I could finally tell someone my actual story. I told him about IK, and how he sold us into sexual slavery. Told him how it was impossible for us to go back as they had ceased our passports. And besides, I was now a drug addict and a high-class escort. As I sat there narrating my ordeal to him, I could see by the way he looked at me he felt sorry for me. He came over, held me and whispered, “it’s never too late. I wanted a woman for the night, but I will do nothing with you. They promised me the best woman they have. I actually thought she was going to be Italian. I just wanted to see what it was like to sleep with a white woman. You are my sister, from Nigeria. Your mother might be white but your father’s Nigerian blood runs through your veins”. I didn’t even bother to find out how he knew my parents, but i just felt relieved someone cared about what happened to me.
He took a deep breath, sighed and said, “stay with me here, in the morning we will figure something out”. So I stayed. I slept on the bed and he was on the couch. And then overnight I had a drug induced withdrawal episode. Fortunately, he had friends in high places. They rushed me to a rehab clinic where it was found that I had withdrawal symptoms and needed to detox.
Now while I was recovering in rehab, the client keep paying my Italian boss daily, saying he still wanted more time with me. And after a week, I had stepped down from my drug withdrawal but wasn’t totally cured. So the client paid for another 3 weeks of my time. At this point had been with him for 8 days and he initially told them he only wanted me for 3 days. so my Italian boss got suspicious and went to the hotel to look for us, he met my client who insisted he could not come into the room to see me, as I was fast asleep and thankfully he backed down, after some more money exchanged hands.
After 3 extra weeks of rehab, I was well enough to travel, my client had gotten me a passport and in 3 days we were back in Johannesburg. He took me straight to the hospital, to give me a full medical checkup. this was when they discovered it compromised my fallopian tubes and the constant injections they gave me had stopped my period, and that meant I only had a slim chance of getting pregnant in the future.
My client was still hopeful, thank God for him, he didn’t give up on me as I still had drug induced withdrawals and sunk into I was in full depression mode. he kept me in hospital for a while then took me to a church, where intensive counselling began. Gradually, my mind came back to normal. I couldn’t believe God sent me an Angel as my client. Otherwise, why would anyone do all this for me? After he had taken me to church and I healed, the church counsellors did an amazing job on me. They started by asking me to forgive myself and that was the first step to healing. Once they and I were convinced, I had forgiven myself, the next stage was to forgive my abusers, I had convinced myself to forgive IK but how in God’s name was I going to forgive my Italian boss.. 18 months later I was finally mentally ready and totally healed of my drug addiction. I got a new lease on life. it was great.
I was ready to face the world. My first mission was to go face IK and forgive him for what he did to me, then go home and see my parents.
First, I went to IK, I now called him IK because he was not worthy to be called an Uncle. coincidentally, he was at that same Sandton towers suite with some girls, about 8 of them telling them of an amazing opportunity to go to Europe for a dance competition, the girls were sitting down with their back to the door and he was facing it, so he saw me first and he quickly tried to dismiss them but I blocked the door and against all objection from him asking them not to listen to me , I told them my story, in fact, they all picked up their bags and ran away, not one remained. Then I starred IK in the face and said I forgave him because God Almighty had restored my life and sent an angel to rescue me from bondage. He kept looking at me and couldn’t say anything. I just left him standing there and went home to my parents. I would tell them where I had been, I knew my parents won’t be able to take it.
My mum and Dad were sitting in the living room, as I walked in they both got up at the same time and shouted Praise the lord, my mum was rolling on the floor and my Dad was lifting up his hands and shouting God’s name be praised. I was shocked at their reaction, no scolding, just crying and love.
Later, when I had settled down, they told me they have been looking for me for years, praying and fasting, just last Sunday, the pastor told them I was home and they will see me before the next Sunday. And that I will walk in with my own two legs. They were to receive me warmly and lovingly because I have been through so much that it would take very little to tip me over the scales again.
Honestly, forgiving the Italian boss was the hardest one for me. Eventually, I got to a place where I could call him and tell him I forgave him. When I called Tonio the Italian, he pleaded with me and ask me where I was, he said he promised to give me more freedom, I could be in charge of the girls and only pick gigs I liked. I laughed and told him, God had delivered me from slavery. I was free now and I was never coming back. But I just called to say I had forgiven him and I dropped the phone before he could say something else. An enormous weight literarily dropped off my chest. I was relieved, happy and excited at God finding me.
From there my client got me a job at an NGO, that rescues girls from sex slavery in Italy. i pointed them towards my girls and we got them all back. I also became a trained counsellor and counselled girls that had been deported back for sex trafficking.
I have been able, with the help of God Almighty, to start my own NGO and today many of the rescued girls have moved on to live fruitful and amazing lives.
Psalm 30 v 11 to 12 “ O lord I will give thanks to you forever. You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
God Almighty sent me an Angel. God turned my life around, gave me a new lease of life, cleansed me and made me whole. I am still standing. “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble”. Psalm 59 v 16.