• Elizabeth was hesitant when I asked if I could photograph her face, I would've wanted her beauty to be seen, however the sensitivity required of the situation means the only other photograph of Elizabeth in this series is of her as a baby.
  • Elizabeth stood on the corner, beneath this notorious block of apartments in Bloemfontein previously raided by police.
  • Cold, dusty and windswept dirt roads of the town in the Eastern Cape where Elizabeth came from.
  • One of the poorest parts of South Africa, the Eastern Cape offers very little opportunity for a better life for those who grow up there.
  • The house that Elizabeth's mother calls home.
  • Inside the house that Elizabeth left when she went with her friend to Bloemfontein. Meagre possessions and a cold home speak of life's struggles.
  • Elizabeth's mother sitting in the main room of her house, in front of the open brazier on which she cooks. She shares her story and anxiously tells of Elizabeth's disappearance.
  • Elizabeth’s mother thought she was dead, her grief and relief were evident when she found out otherwise.
  • A photo of Elizabeth as a baby in her grandmother’s house. Still a child when she was trafficked, Elizabeth had never dreamed of one day being prostituted. No girl ever does.

      Elizabeth

      I saw a young girl in a red jacket, standing on a dark and lonely street corner later that same night after meeting Sindiswa. The young girl turned out to be 15-year-old Elizabeth (a pseudonym) Sindiswa’s childhood friend. She desperately wanted to go home, but couldn’t leave because ‘Jude’ had her clothes, and explained that if she left them behind, “He will witch me”. It was the first time I came across the threat of witchcraft as a form of manipulation to entrap victims. Church outreach workers managed to retrieve her stuff and get her out of the house that night. We drove her to Queenstown the next day to put her in the care of police and social workers.

      At 11, Elizabeth had to leave school to care for her mother who was ill. Upon recovery her mother went to get a job in Cape Town and left Elizabeth in the care of her much older sister, who treated her badly. Her friend Sindiswa’s offer to join her and go to Bloemfontein sounded like a great opportunity.

      The day after her rescue, a social worker said she was never trafficked because she went willingly – a clear sign that the issue was not largely understood. A victim is often not initially forced into being trafficked, coercion & fraud are the most common methods used; also under South African law, as a minor, her ‘willing’ consent was irrelevant.

      Like her friend Sindiswa, Elizabeth was also pregnant. Her beautiful baby girl was born in the December after her rescue. Elizabeth wanted to return home to her mother in Eastern Cape after she had her baby.

      The woman who recruited the girls was found and gave evidence which led to the apprehension of “Jude”.