Re-loving my Body After Years of Sexual Exploitation

Photo provided by Grizelda Grootboom

Grizelda Grootboom’s story is riveting. Her childhood came to an abrupt end when she was gangraped by four boys at age 11. What followed were years of living on the street. At 18, she was betrayed by someone she trusted and became trapped as a sex slave for many years. After what can only be described as sheer horror, Grizelda was finally able to escape that dark world.

The healing process has been painful. We reached out to Grizelda to ask her how she has been able to re-love her body after all the trauma she experienced.

What impact did being sexually exploited for years have on your perception of your body?

Being trafficked and sexually exploited for like 12 to 13 years of my life has put so much trauma on my body physically, mentally and emotionally…not forgetting the drugs that were pumped into my body almost every day during those years and the impact they had. The first thing I had to deal with was all the diseases that I had. That was the biggest struggle at my age because back then, HIV and STDs were taboo and you were not allowed to talk about it. And if you did go to a clinic, you would be stigmatized and discriminated against. You would not get the privacy that health care promises because staff members that worked in the clinic used to just share the details with my family members. And that sort of just gave life to the stigma and really caused a lot of family problems, a lot of discrimination, a lot of stigma.

I really hated my body at that time. There were so many times where it was like, the drugs had to come out and I really didn’t feel any sort of attraction. I would force myself wanting to have sex just to feel like a woman. So it had a very bad impact on me mentally and emotionally.

Once you were free from captivity, what was the process of building your confidence back like for you?

I first really had to find a way where me and my mom and my family could be together where she does not see me as a woman that sells her body for money and prostitution or drugs, because she always thought I was just waiting to do that. So I literally fought by showing love and forgiveness and the only way I could do that was tapping into the presence of God, tapping into Christianity and meditate on life as much as I could and how possible it was for all things to change.

Every day it became more and more clear to me that I had more than just a voice or a story, I had a purpose too!

And the purpose was to show confidence and love yourself and that’s where I found the confidence and the minute I started accepting that, the spirit of freedom and liberation was just coming over my body where I could think about myself as a woman of power. Everything that God said about me is something that I started to just meditate on and dwell on. Every time I went through extreme health scares in my life, I really went to fasting, meditation and eating very, very healthy, drinking a lot of water. So I think that was the push. The confidence came and I feel free. I know who I am and who I need to be.

I think just also giving birth was one of the moments where I was reminded that I was still a woman. I can still bring life on earth and that was the freedom and liberation of it.

What ways have you grown to love and appreciate your body?

I’ve really just decided to love me and who I am. I’m a very happy, loving, bold and creative person. And I think my confidence was really boosted by singing – it’s one career in me that I haven’t tapped into. I’m really hoping my singing can bring a lot of healing to me. I enjoy singing I enjoy feeling the freedom of just voicing and screaming out every toxic pain and trauma through song.  I’ve also grown into also speaking to women that have probably gone through the same sexual exploitation or gender-based violence and really giving them confidence – telling them, “You are still powerful; you are still a phoenix; you are still the women who you want to be, you just need to tap into who you are and see the light.”

I’m also just very transparently and honest with women on if that time of the month comes it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to tell your children, “Right now you’re not being realistic,” or “I’m exhausted.”

I’ve really grown to be honest to myself and to be honest to my children about who I am. My family always is thinking that I need to get into a relationship to feel loved and I used to just say to myself that is not for me right now.

Right now, the need is for me to love myself to be able to love other people and find confidence. That’s the wisdom that I’ve grown into – that love gives us this intelligence to bring women together and show each other love. Embrace Dignity, which is the first organization I was part of, they’ve always given us this space on platforms and big rooms where we women that come from sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, gender-based violence and prostitution just sit in the room and talk to each other in a loving way.

I’ve grown into knowing that loving yourself will allow you to be able to love other people, and love heals all things.

Read Grizelda’s full story below:

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