Soft sobs filter through her muffled words. The young woman on the other end of the line tries to compose herself but can’t suppress her fear.
She’s terrified her sugar daddy will find out she’s speaking to YOU, she says.
“He would kill me if he knew I was talking to you,” 21-year-old Lindiwe Khumalo* says. “But I want other impressionable girls to learn from my mistakes. If I can save at least one life I can be at peace.”
There’s an alarming rise in the trend of wealthy older men catering to their girlfriends’ every whim in exchange for sex. Many prey on vulnerable township girls. Lindiwe was courted by her lover, a father of three, when she was 15.
He pays her bills, bought her a snazzy car and financially provides for her and her parents. But the 43-year-old businessman has also given her a more permanent legacy: HIV.
“I’ve been trying to get away from him for the past three years because he beats me and he gave me HIV,” she says tearfully.
“But he has paid lobola. My parents say it will be a shame on their name if I leave him. They say no one will want me now because I’m spoilt goods.”
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo launched a campaign in December last year urging parents to press charges of statutory rape against sugar daddies.
Usually they’re married, drive flashy cars and have affluent lifestyles – factors that draw in susceptible young women. But the risks of these relationships far outweigh the benefits, experts say: physical abuse and HIV/Aids are two of the main issues.
A Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) study shows for every year of age difference between partners there’s a 28 per cent increase of sex without the use of condoms, which increases the risk of infection.
Is there a way out for desperate young women who have sugar daddies?
Yes, says LoveLife’s call-centre manager, Bernadette Robertson, but women face challenges in negotiating safe sex.
“There’s no real tried and tested method these girls can employ if they want to leave,” Durban psychologist Farah Khan says. “Speak to a counsellor for guidance. Never make rash decisions.”
If you are in a relationship with an older man and need help to end it contact: *LoveLife 0800-121-900 (youth line), 0800-121-100 (parent line), CLICK HERE or go to www.lovelife.org.za. * The Soul City Institute: 0861-768-524 , CLICK HERE or go to www.soulcity.org.za.
* Not her real name