‘I survived human trafficking’

Leana Els was human trafficked and lived as prostitute for four years.

At 26 years old, Leana Els was a victim of human trafficking and forced into prostitution for close to four years.

She told the Randburg Sun her harrowing story of how drug use led to a life she knew she had to fight her way out of, not only for herself but for her children too.

Now 34, Els has thrown herself into self-defence classes that she has credited for the restoration of her confidence.

Ilana Bellotto shows Leana Els some self-defence moves.


“When you are on drugs, you are weak and because of this, people around you have power over you.”

While trying to forge a successful career as a chef in the air force, she started doing drugs.

“This then led to prostitution which then led to human trafficking.”

Els described trafficking as the buying and selling of someone and gaining something either through sex or slavery. For four years, she was kept against her will in a room with little interaction with the outside world.

For those years, from late 2009 to 2013 she was sexually assaulted, beaten and was just regarded as a trafficker’s possession. The house she lived in had women from various parts of the world.

Els recalled how one of these women tried to escape a beating by jumping out of a second-storey window. She said that no one is ever willing to become a prostitute but with drug addicts once you have stolen all you can and have no belongings to part with the next best thing is to sell yourself.

“The thing is if you see the client, you know he will give you drugs and that client gives money to the pimp. Though she made a lot of money through prostitution she was constantly indebted to someone.

“I could not run away because these people knew my family and they threatened to harm them if I ever did.”

She never saw the trafficker as he was behind the scenes. She explained that there were runners who received instructions from the trafficker. These people were tasked with the job to get you daily supplies.

Els was sold and bought by people who treated her as a possession. After the Hawks raided the place she and the other women were moved to a safe house.

There she took up self-defence classes and they changed her life. Els sees this as just one of the ways she is regaining her power and self-worth.

“Now I am working on relationships with my children, even though I have no love after what I have been through as I do not trust anyone.”

She added that all her children want is the affection she doesn’t know how to give. She now has a job and is starting a new life for herself through the support of her family.

ALSO READ: Four men in police custody after Monkor break-in

Neo Phashe

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