Warning: this story is confronting and could be upsetting or triggering. Please take care
The teenager sold up to five times a day for sex with random men by her own mother has spoken about her ordeal, saying she begged to stop “working” many times.
She also revealed what made her to go to police and how Lata managed to manipulate her into having sex for money – the first time on her 15th birthday.
“I felt that I had to do it,” she told the Weekend Herald.
“I had to do what I was told, what my mother said.
“I didn’t want to.”
The 18-year-old, who has permanent name suppression, said there were parts of her story she did not want to speak about – they were simply too traumatising.
But she shared details of her life and her spiral into daily sex work.
The teenager was born and raised in Fiji and said her childhood was “good”.
“She was a good mum, she looked after us,” she said.
Her father left the family when she was a young teen and Lata moved to New Zealand.
She told her daughter, then 14, and sons that she wanted a better life for them, a better education.
“Stuff didn’t work out as we wanted it to though,” she said.
The family’s visitor visas expired and they began living as illegal immigrants – meaning the children could not enrol in school without alerting immigration authorities.
They soon ran out of money to pay for food.
Lata began working as a prostitute and told her 14-year-old daughter she needed to start doing the same to help support the family financially.
Despite refusing, the teen was sold for the first time the day she turned 15.
She tried to say no, repeatedly.
Lata initially said the teen only had to work for a few months, but there was no end to it.
“I told my mum I didn’t want to do it… after three months I said the time period had finished and I didn’t want to do it anymore, but she refused to let me stop.
“A couple of times after that I said I didn’t want to do it too.”
Lata placed advertisements for her daughter – in which she lied about her age – on the New Zealand Girls online escort agency website, other sites and in the Herald.
She would have sex with men at the family home.
But as more men began to request the teen her mother began taking her to motels around Auckland for as many as five “appointments” per day, each appointment costing up to $200 per hour.
“I felt vulnerable, I didn’t know what to do,” the teenager said.
“I was scared.
“I knew what was happening, but I didn’t know why.
“I was worried that if I kept doing it no one would want to marry me – no one wants to marry a woman who has slept with hundreds of men.”
The victim said she knew what her mother was doing was wrong but she was too afraid to tell anyone.
She also feared that no one would believe her and that if she disclosed what was happening her family would be deported.
So, she kept working.
The beginning of the end of her ordeal started she told her then-boyfriend some of her story.
“I told him it ‘was’ happening rather than it ‘is’ happening, but he started to suspect,” she said.
“He found out eventually when one of his mates came to see me [as a client]… he left me, then I came to my senses.”
She knew then that she wanted out for good – but was terrified that if the authorities found out her family would be deported.
“Whenever I would tell my mum I was leaving she would cry, she would manipulate me, emotionally blackmail me.
“My main weakness is that I love my mother a lot – I still do – and I can’t see her tears.
“So she would cry… but one day I just said ‘no, it’s over’.”
She managed to get a cleaning job but had other family members on her back to return to sex work.
“They were manipulating me again, saying ‘you can’t just abandon your mother, a daughter must compromise when a family is in need’.
“I said ‘no, this is my body – I decide what I want to do’.
“I was very scared, this was the first time I had stood up for myself.”
The teenager confided in a friend and they researched sex trafficking and slavery and that helped her decide to go to police.
She ran away from home and went to make a complaint.
“I was so scared that they police wouldn’t trust or believe me, that they would think I was making it up and that they would deport me,” she said.
“I was shivering as I went into the police station, my heart was saying ‘don’t do this’ – but I had to, I could not continue this all of my life.
“When she was charged it was a relief for me, more because my brothers were safe rather than my mum getting caught.
“I was scared that my brothers would have to go through what I went through.”
She said the process of making a complaint, the police investigation and court process had been “very hard” but she no regrets.
Lata was sentenced to more than six years in prison for dealing in slaves and receiving earnings from commercial sexual services from an underage person.
Her partner Avneensh Sehgal has also pleaded guilty to his part in the ghastly offending – meaning the victim will not have to face a trial.
“That was a relief,” she said.
“I just wanted my mother to acknowledge what she had done, by pleading guilty she showed me that she was sorry – that she knows what she has done is wrong.
“Now it’s over – everything is over and I am free to live the life I always wanted to have.
“I was scared to death, but now I am comfortable.”
ALL I WANTED WAS YOUR LOVE – A VICTIM STATEMENT
At her mother’s sentencing, the victim’s impact statement was read to the court by Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker.
The victim has asked that some of the more personal aspects of the statement are not published.
But, here are her words.
While I was working for my mum, despite being underage, I had to pay a share of the rent, food, power, internet and other expenses out of the money I earned by selling myself.
Educationally I had no chance to go to school and this is why I am behind with my academic studies and I cannot go to university like others my age.
I struggle to mix with peers because usually people talk about their life and their upbringing.
I have to make up lies about four years of my life and why I live now on my own without having family support.
I often feel lonely but do not trust others anymore.
I have no legal status in New Zealand and the failure to apply for an appropriate visa has put myself and my brothers in a situation where I am constantly anxious about having to leave the country.
I cannot enrol in any classes or courses. This is difficult and I am not allowed to do any voluntary work.
Selling myself has affected every relationship that I have been in – I am very cautious with everyone that I meet.
I see men differently now. I think that they always want something from me, and that is their reason for talking to me.
I don’t trust or believe anyone, including my family.
I can’t control my emotions and instead of crying I find myself getting angry.
Some days I have so much anxiety I don’t even want to get out of bed because am worried if I go outside I will see someone that I’ve been with and I won’t know what to do.
I always wanted my mum to be a normal person.
When I hear someone else talking about their mum I get angry because I wonder what I did to deserve my mum.
I felt like my mum treated me like a piece of paper that was just being used.
I don’t have any family left now – my brothers blame me for what has happened to mum.
I’ve always loved you mum, but I couldn’t get over that.
All I wanted was your love when I was a child, teenager – and as your girl.
You did not care about me – and I just wanted your attention.