Content warning: The stories throughout this issue may be especially activating for some readers. Many of these pieces involve descriptions of traumatic experiences including sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, queer/transphobic violence, in addition to the violence of states and false borders.
Back in South Africa, just like any other part of the world, education is considered the backbone of our country’s economy. Most governments invest in it, and the fruits can be seen in producing well-educated graduates who help run various sectors. As a young girl, I always dreamt of studying abroad, and kept on applying for sponsorships. One day my dream came true and I landed my chance in San Francisco. I went through the necessary academic and medical procedures to avoid any delays and I started my schooling abroad. The school covered most of my tuition, I had a host, and all I had to do was study.
Being the social person that I am, it was not before long that I started making friends. In the process of making friends and everything, I got a boyfriend: Diego. We got to liking each other, and that’s when I learned that Diego was rich. He’d drive to school and could easily afford everything that I thought was a luxury. I started hanging out with him a lot and that was a huge problem with my host. The situation got so bad that I walked out and went on to live with my so-called boyfriend. At first, everything was smooth and quiet, but then little by little there were small parties here and there at the house.
The small parties became frequent, and then became disastrous when police started coming in, claiming reports of disturbance to neighbors. There were hard drugs and weapons I had never seen before with Diego’s friends, but he assured me there was nothing to worry about, nor should I mention anything to anyone. I should have seen these red flags but the fun was too much to let go. Diego would give me everything I asked for but he never let me have money of my own—another red flag. Time went by and I started missing classes due to overdoses that led to days and weeks of recuperation. The university could not condone my behavior and within no time I was scrapped off my sponsorship and student visa at the same time. This was a nightmare. Everything that had brought me to America was gone.
I was required to head back to South Africa, but Diego convinced me to stay behind and that he’d protect me—the third red flag. I ignored them all. Apparently, Diego remained in school. Party life went on and since our circle was small, I didn’t have any worries. I was Diego’s illegal house-wife, an illegal immigrant and a peddler for his illegal drugs just to keep the money coming. This went on until Diego wanted to turn me into a sex worker and slave for his clients. How could things change so fast? He was done with me, leaving me to be used by other men. I refused to abide by his commands and he threw me out of the house. Disowned by my host, cast out by my boyfriend, sent away from school and undocumented, I didn’t have anywhere to go, and that’s how I became homeless.
There are so many victims of immigration, ill-fated relationships and homelessness out here and we all have one wish: to be assisted to get documents to be able to work in America, or just have assistance go back home.