I say often that my purpose in this life is to love God and love others. Through this calling, I’ve discovered and experienced a huge need in our society, and all around the world, to help women not only see that they are extremely valuable and have a significant purpose of their own, but that they have a voice and do not deserve to live in fear or silence.
Women worldwide face challenges daily, but many face various forms of violence, crime and physical and emotional abuse. I experienced a situation like this a few years ago that rocked me to my core, but also sparked something in me to speak up for the many women who have been silenced. This incident broke my heart for so many women worldwide.
In 2017, I sat at a red traffic light, all dressed up on my way to an event, feeling on top of the world. I was just crowned Miss South Africa a couple months before. It was peak hour traffic and broad daylight when I looked to my left and right and saw that five armed men were surrounding me. I knew that my materialistic things were not worth my life, so I put up my hands in surrender and gave them everything I had. I was hoping that would be the end of it, and tried to run, but the moment I tried to get away, a guy grabbed me and pushed me back into the car, yelling, “Get in, you’re going with us!” Through various safety driving courses that I had taken prior to this event, I learned that the second destination will never be better than the first, and I knew that I had to get away.
At that moment I knew I had three decisions I could make: fight, flight, or freeze. All that was going through my head in the moment was, “No, I’m not going with you. I don’t care if you shoot me, if you kill me, but I’m not going with you.” I punched that guy as hard as I possibly could in his throat, and it gave me a split-second window of opportunity to run away. In my six-inch heels, in broad daylight during peak-hour traffic, I ran up a big avenue. I ran, looking over my shoulder, not knowing if I was going to be shot in the back or followed.
You would think that’s the worst part of this story. As I ran up that avenue, I knocked on about 30 or 40 car windows. Do you know how many cars stopped for me? Not one. Not one person stopped to help me. I don’t know what was more terrifying, being attacked by these five armed men, or not getting any help. I kept running. I kept knocking on windows. I ended up at the next traffic light when I saw a small car pull over to the side of the road with a young girl inside telling me, “Get in! Get in!” Just before she leaned over to unlock and open the door, she looked at me and said, “You don’t have a gun, right?” And I said, “No, I was just hijacked.” She let me into her car and took me to safety.
If it wasn’t for that young, courageous, 19-year-old girl, I don’t know what would have happened. I am forever grateful for this young woman who risked her own safety to be a helping hand to me. What I learned from that experience is that I don’t want to ever be the kind of person that shoves someone in need away, that rolls up a car window when someone is begging for help. My hope is to always be the person that leans over, unlocks and opens the car door, and leads them to safety.
Although my heart was shattered, my eyes were opened to so many women hurting all over the world. What was one of the scariest situations I’ve ever been in led me to starting a workshop campaign in South Africa empowering women with the tools and knowledge on how to handle unwanted situations and violence. My hope with the #Unbreakable movement is that we can empower women all over the world to believe in themselves, to value themselves, and to know that asking for help does not equal weakness. There are organizations that can and want to help. I, together with field experts, hope to help teach women life-saving skills and give them powerful knowledge on how to handle unwanted situations, but also help them realize that if we, as women, take hands and stand together, we can beUnbreakable.
Now, 4 years later, I am more passionate about being a voice for those who feel silenced than ever before. I am a current board member of Her Song, the Anti-Human Trafficking ministry of the Tim Tebow Foundation. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to dedicate so much of my time and energy to fight against what I believe is one of the greatest evils we are facing in this world today. I truly feel as if God used that tragedy and turned it into my greatest testimony.