When Rebecca Bernardo turned 18, she decided to sell her virginity, attracting lots of attention and–hopefully–dollars. She was inspired by another Brazilian woman, Catarina Migliorini, a 20-year-old student who auctioned off her flower in 2012 in hopes of wealth and fame. But Bernardo’s motivations are even darker: She’s selling her virginity to cover her mother’s medical bills.
Her YouTube video has already gotten thousands of views, and she has three bids so far–with the highest at $35,000. A local TV station offered to cover her mother’s bills–incurred when a stroke left her bedridden and unable to feed herself–if she’d shut down the plan to sell her virginity, but she refused, saying that she’s also hoping to get enough money to relocate herself and her mother.
“There comes a time when you have to make decisions to get what you want,” Rebecca told CNN. “You have to be strong.”
Her mother disagrees–she’s said she should look for work, and “shouldn’t prostitute herself.” Rebecca says she has tried earning money through other means, but was barely able to cover the expenses of a caretaker for her mother. According to CNN, neighbors in the Bernardinos’ small farm town sympathize: Without other family to help out (her older sister died several years ago, and she’s estranged from her father), they believe she’s doing the best she can to take care of herself and her mother. But so far, none have offered to help her out themselves.
Her situation is extremely dark and, hopefully, just as rare. But without social support or adequate health care, it isn’t rare that families become desperate under the weight of medical bills. It may not lead everyone to prostitution, but it’s devastating for everyone in its own right. File that under “great argument for universal health care.”
Photo: courtesy of CNN