Trafficking survivor inspires
Van der Heever to give talk in Gonubie on how young victims are groomed
It was under the cover of darkness in 1992 that a teenage Talita van der Heever decided to run away from home.
By that time she had allegedly been raped multiple times, first by a guest at a braai her family had hosted in their home in Christiana in the North West when she was just three years old, and later by an older relative who she claims molested her continuously until she was in her late teens.
It was after confiding in a family member who refused to believe her, as well as a teacher at school who ostracised her because of her confession by making her sleep in a dormitory separate from the other girls, that Van der Heever, then 16, decided to leave her hometown in search of a better life.
After convincing a friend to take her the 182km to Bloemfontein, now Gonubie resident Van der Heever said it was there that her life began to spiral out of control.
Stranded in the middle of the city centre at 3am, she said an old man in a white car stopped to ask if she was okay.
“I told him I was waiting for a friend. He kept circling the block and came to tell me that he could see I was not okay,” she said.
After being forced to down a mixture of brandy and Coke which made her feel dizzy, Van der Heever woke up the next morning bound by her arms and legs to a bed with cable ties.
“He asked if he could take me somewhere and I cried. In that moment I decided to confide in him and told him everything. He smiled, gave me a hug, and told me to go with him to a place of safety where girls like me live and where they can take care of me.”
Van der Heever was sold to a brothel 15 minutes later.
After being forced to down a mixture of brandy and Coke which made her feel dizzy, Van der Heever said she woke up the next morning bound by her arms and legs to a bed with cable ties. On a bed next to her in the same room was a 10-year-old girl. A few hours later the first man came in.
“He was the first of many, many guys. We were raped 15 to 20 times a day. We were kept there in those rooms all day. We weren’t allowed to shower, they didn’t feed us and when they did give us food it wasn’t very good. It was bread and sometimes just pap.
“They gave us something that they called vitamins that we had to drink. The vitamins were drugs. I was spaced out most of the time. I think I was there for about a month, although it felt longer,” she said.
Van der Heever had not been trafficked, but said all of the other girls she came into contact with in that brothel had been. She claims two of the girls had allegedly been snatched from school and another from a shopping mall.
“During my time [there] I got to speak to some of the girls and I got to hear some of their stories. I think I had just walked into the situation whereas they were abducted. They had been taken.”
It was a cleaning lady who helped Van der Heever escape. She told them the house in which they had been kept had been deserted and they should call their parents.
“There was no furniture, nothing. They had taken all of the girls too, except myself and two other girls who had been in the room with me.
“I called my mom and she agreed to come get me. I didn’t tell her about this. I just said I met a guy and he took me to a brothel. To this day she thinks I prostituted myself,” she said.
Now married with a baby, Van der Heever gives talks across the country on human trafficking.
Van der Heever, together with security company Tactical Taskforce, will be giving a free talk next week Thursday at Gonubie Bowling Club to educate parents and caregivers about human trafficking. Covered in the talk will be how to keep children safe and a breakdown of how children are groomed by abusers.
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