Pretoria - Growing up in abject poverty, Vinolia Masilo, 25, found herself dating older men just so that she could have the basic necessities. But little did she realise, that too would have a price.
Masilo, from Soshanguve, said she now wanted to be a cautionary tale to young girls who thought dating a sugar daddy was the way out.
She said she was 17-years-old when she had her first affair.
One afternoon after writing an exam, the teenager was walking with her friends when a 32-year-old man approached them. The man was in a relationship with another woman and had three children.
"We exchanged numbers and started talking. As time went on, I saw an opportunity to get materialistic things from him and I did exactly that," she said.
But the thrill did not last.
"He started changing and wanted to control me. He didn’t want me to have male friends. He wanted me to be at home all the time and if he called and I was somewhere, he would get angry.
"I remember once when a friend sent me a call back and he accused me of cheating. He started beating me up right there on the spot," she said.
'He didn’t want to be seen in public with me'
Masilo said she was made to feel worthless and he constantly reminded her that everything she had was from him. Every time they would argue, he would tell her of all the things he was doing for her and how her family would not be able to do the same.
"He started treating me as though I had nothing without him. Yes, I had everything I wanted, but it came at a price. He didn’t want to be seen in public with me. If we went out, it had to be far away from Soshanguve," she said.
The two-year relationship ended when she became sick. She found herself queuing at a clinic to get medication for an STI. She said it was both painful and embarrassing to endure.
She was in matric when she fell pregnant by another man, who died two years later.
Having not finished school due to the pregnancy, and feeling the pressure of having to feed another mouth, she found herself back in the arms of an older man.
This time, he was 50 and divorced. She was 23 at the time.
Yet again, the pattern of her first affair repeated itself.
"He was trying to make me what I was not. I had to tell him where I was going, who I was going with and sometimes he would even want to take me there.
"Every time my phone rang, he wanted to know who I was speaking to. When I made a mistake, he reminded me of everything he was doing for me," she said.'The sex life became more of a rape'
Masilo said the man was also controlling and did not want her to be independent.
"He did not want me to further my ambitions in life. He said he had money and could take care of me, so why do I need to work. He would go as far as approaching people [who] hired me to tell them I was a criminal and couldn’t be trusted."
Soon she was being dictated to on what she could wear. She found herself depressed, always crying and shutting the world out. Masilo said she started questioning why she came from a poor background and why her child’s father had to die. The situation turned her off sex.
"The sex life became more of a rape. He would be in the mood and I wouldn’t. I would just lay on the bed and he would do what he wanted."
Masilo said she finally had the courage to break off the relationship after seven months because she "couldn't take it anymore".
She has since turned her life around.
'I can see others relate to my story'
In 2014, she started sharing her story with young schoolgirls in a bid to ensure that they didn't follow the same path.
In her spare time, she is part of a youth programme on public speaking. She works as an event co-ordinator and DJ.
Her daughter is now 6-years-old.
"I shared my life to show young girls that it is not okay to date older men. I was lucky to only have a child, but others won’t be so lucky. They might end up with HIV/Aids. I can see others relate to my story... when I share it [with them], which is an indication that they are involved [in such relationships].
"I’m not proud of what I did, but I’m sharing my story to set a good example for my daughter. We need to show young girls that dating older men is a waste of time and it will leave you scarred for life," she said.