By Aryn Baker | Photographs by Lynsey Addario for TIME
After spending 15 months in captivity in a run-down brothel in the Italian city of Torino, Wealth finally saw her chance to escape. The 23-year-old Nigerian had scraped together nearly 50 euros in tips from a couple of regulars and so one winter afternoon, with her madam absent, she decided to slip out the door. It was her first time outside in months. She stopped at the local grocery store, where she spent everything she had on chocolate and cakes. For several minutes she huddled outside, gorging on the sweets and forgetting, just for a moment, the shame, humiliation and torture she had endured ever since arriving in Italy for what a friend had falsely told her was going to be a job selling African food and trinkets.
A college graduate with a degree in laboratory science, Wealth, like millions of other young Nigerians, had been unable to find a job in her hometown of Benin City in southwestern Nigeria. Beguiled by accounts of easy money in Europe, she contacted her friend’s boss in Italy, who offered to pay her travel costs up front. Wealth, who asked to go by the English translation of her first name in order to protect her privacy, agreed to pay the sponsor back out of her wages. Before she left for Italy in 2012, she swore an unbreakable oath, conducted by a ‘juju’ priest, to pay back her soon-to-be boss and madam and never betray her.