In the past year, the Consoling Through Counseling (CTC) program has consoled and assisted in the psychological healing process of 132 women and girls including 20 cases of sexual abuse, 16 of them children under 18. Two compassionate counselors, Bun Sokny and Prak Phallis, look after a huge caseload between them. It’s common for counselors to take on the trauma of their patients so Lotus Outreach has therefore made provisions for them to take regular visits to the capital, Phnom Penh, where they are professionally de-stressed.
This report tells the story of 19 year-old SL (name withheld) and her process of emotion healing during her time at the confidential CTC shelter. SL does not remember where exactly she comes from in Cambodia, but she lived in Thailand for a year and worked in a beverage shop in Pailin town. During that time, she worked very hard and helped even with the heavy lifting, though all was well. One time, however, she went to a music concert and drank beer with her friends and got drunk.
On her way home, someone on a motto abducted and drugged her. She woke at 3am with no clothes on and did not remember anything.
She went back to work and could not get up for a few days, because she was so sick and badly drugged. She got pregnant from the rape and she discovered this harrowing news almost 5 months after the incident. SL was then sent to social affairs and eventually referred to our CTC program.
When SL first arrived she was scared, hopeless and ashamed of herself for being raped and pregnant. On arrival the counselor met SL and began the process of building trust as part of integration into the program. SL attended formal counseling on a one to one basis twice a month and also attended the large and small group therapy meetings. The counselor continued to build trust in the one to one sessions before choosing what kind of approach she would take to help reduce SL’s trauma. They began to use art therapy along with talk therapy, while SL built more confidence in group therapy.
As SL settled and relaxed the counselor recapped her progresses to show SL how she was developing psychologically. SL was not at all connected to the idea of the keeping baby in the first session, but after giving birth and through continued therapy, she has now started to connect to the baby and declared she intended to raise it herself. After the birth she stated,
“I have seen his face and want to keep my baby.” For the moment, she has requested to stay in the shelter a bit longer until she feels ready to go out and support herself and her child.
The counselor reflects that SL is still in the shelter and seems to now notice others have problems also and feel empathy with the other survivors. Also she noted that SL was very sensitive and cried as soon as she was asked about the baby in the first session, but is now stronger and remains fully committed to looking after the child.
Her family had not contacted her up to the time she was raped. They have since left Pailin and SL still doesn’t know where they have gone. When we met SL at the shelter she had a radiant smile and seemed very positive and hopeful. We would not have guessed what she had endured if we hadn’t been told her background. Her child is beautiful and healthy and seems to have helped transform SL with the love she now feels for her one-month old baby.
Gender-based violence is prevalent throughout Cambodia. Widespread rape is a reality that many Cambodian women must confront and often without emotional, psychological or legal support. Our program, Counseling and Reintegration, executed by our local partner CWCC, serves to counsel and reintegrate survivors in addition to raising social awareness regarding such gender-based violence in order prevent further assaults.
The following story demonstrates the beneficial work this program can accomplish with your further support!
Nai Lee* aged 14 from Banteay Meanchey, often had to stay with her mother’s cousin at the border area, because her mother worked as a laborer along the Cambodian-Thailand border. During one stay, a strange man Lee did not know sexually raped her. Although Lee did not tell her mother after the rape, Lee did tell a neighbor who soon after told her mother.
Hearing about the incident, Lee’s mother skipped work and immediately took Lee to the police station to file out a complaint to pursue the rapist. Lee’s case was then taken to Banteay Meanchey provincial police station for legal proceedings. Through interviews, the crime division was able to identify the suspect and later arrest the man.
Lee was referred by the crime division to stay at CWCC’s safe shelter and receive program services. Although Lee received good medical care by the shelter staff including accommodation, meals and clothing, she suffered deep mental fear. Lee still hated men. She could not relax. She spoke in a very loud voice when meeting with the counselors and the shelter staff. She had arguments with other clients in the shelter as well.
Our team supported Lee through this difficult period and provided her with individual and group counseling sessions. She also underwent art therapy techniques such as drawing and painting. Lee was excited about such art therapy and ultimately reduced arguments with other clients, while our staff witnessed significant improvements in her mental health.
After this period of counseling, the CWCC’s reintegration team met her to discuss her plan to return to her regular life based on her request to reunite with her family. Through family and community assessment, the CWCC’s reintegration team supported Lee with a life start-up grant including sleeping and kitchen materials, groceries, and a stipend from funding provided by Lotus Outreach.
In return, Lee’s mother stated: “I am happy for the quick actions by authorities and CWCC’s support… my daughter's case has gone through the legal process and the perpetrator was arrested and is being prosecuted for his crime.”
Since this statement, Lee’s perpetrator has been sentenced to 7 years in jail and Lee was awarded financial compensation. In addition, CWCC’s reintegration team has been conducting ongoing visits to see Lee’s progress and to provide ongoing counseling and support as needed. Although Lee has not fully healed up till this point and still faces significant distress, this program has allowed Lee to make huge strides in her healing process and also in reintegrating her back into her regular life.
Support Lotus Outreach and our partner, CWCC, to help so many other girls like Lee that are in profound need of such important aid!
*Nai Lee’s name has been changed to protect her identity
Gender-based violence is rampant throughout Cambodia. Women are expected to remain chaste until marriage and are generally held in lower regard than men. Widespread sex trafficking and rape present Cambodian women with a painful irony: in addition to the trauma of sexual assault and abuse, survivors are often blamed for what has happened to them. Ostracized and shouldering a burden of guilt for having shamed their families, many girls have no one to turn to.
Nana,* only 14 years old, is the youngest of five siblings. Her parents are landless farmers, seasonal laborers. Because of her family’s station, she has never attended school. Chasing after whatever work they could find, Nana’s parents took her and her siblings to areas near the Thai border.
Just $100 pays for the trauma therapy for a girl for an entire year! Donate today to support this important work.
One night while Nana’s Aunt and her siblings were away at a neighbor’s house, a rapist broke into the home and assaulted Nana while she slept. Nana was too ashamed to tell her parents directly, but she was able to tell her friends, who told Nana’s parents. Her mother reported it to the commune police, and it fortunately resulted in the arrest of the assailant!
Nana voluntarily stayed at CWCC's shelter to wait for her court case and receive services from CWCC. At the shelter, Nana met the counselors who provided her with counseling to reduce her stress and heal her trauma. At first she had a mental block on the memory and an overwhelming hatred of males. She was fearful, she talked to counselors and shelter staff with a loud voice and she was angry with other clients.
After receiving counseling for a full year, Nana worked with CWCC's reintegration staff to plan for her return home. The reintegration team conducted family tracing and assessments on 22ndJanuary 2014 before reintegrating her into her community.
On 24th January 2014, Nana was reintegrated back home with life start-up support. This included sleeping materials, kitchen utensils, and groceries.
The case of the perpetrator is still pending a verdict, but CWCC’s legal aid staff have worked to ensure that the violent criminal is kept away from Nana and the village. In the last year 22 perpetrators of rape, domestic violence and human trafficking were arrested with encouragement and assistance from our legal prosecution staff. 4 have been convicted, and 18 cases are still pending.
Your support has helped make Nana’s recovery, reintegration and justice possible. Thank you for donating to support Nana and other survivors like her.
*Nana’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Sieb, 25, is recently divorced from her abusive husband. Sieb’s former husband has taken 2 of their 3 hectares of ancestral land and all their savings. He refuses to part with half, as is customary, or anything for that matter. They remain in a legal battle but with no land titles or documentation; it’s not clear what the outcome will be.
Back in November 2012, Sieb took refuge at Lotus Outreach’s shelter for survivors of rape, trafficking and domestic violence. While she stayed at the shelter for nearly six months, Sieb received sewing skills training and was offered a small business startup grant of $200 to help her get back on her feet.
Sieb’s first venture was reselling produce. She bought sweet cakes made in Thailand but didn’t account for the rainy season and perishable nature of the product and lost $40. Next, she bravely jumped into making dried fish but she cut off the fish heads which should have been included and which reduced the weight of the final product. She couldn’t make a profit and suffered a further loss of $100.
Sieb’s third venture is proving more successful and Lotus Outreach Field Director Glenn Fawcett recently visited Sieb at her home to find out more:
We arrived mid-afternoon to Sieb’s home in Oo Ambaal on the edge of Sisophon town in the Western Cambodian Province bordering Thailand. We could hear that familiar sound, “rat-a-rat-a-rat-a”, of a pedal driven sewing machine as we mounted the broad stairs of Sieb’s stilted wooden home with a corrugated iron roof. Inside, Sieb was working on her garments next to her parents and the usual gaggle of nephews, nieces and sundry neighborhood kids surrounded them.
After Sieb’s initial disappointments from her first two business ventures, it was clear that she would have to make absolutely certain that her next venture was a success. One day, as Sieb sat on her stoop watching life pass by her, she noticed a neighbor returning some garment piecework to a manager and told the neighbor that she could also do some of the sewing piecework for a lower price. The neighbor agreed and pretty soon Sieb was stitching shorts and shirts on piece rates. She’s not very fast as of yet, but it’s a start, and she works 6 hours on most days, which earns her about US$2 a day. This modest income makes a big difference to her and the family at the end of each month and with more practice she will doubtless get faster and generate more income.
Not surprisingly, Sieb says she isn’t going to stop at that. She tells us, “I’m putting money away to start a small grocery store, which I will find more stimulating. It will increase my skill and capacity by having to keep accounts, a budget, and stock in and out.”
Even after all she has endured, you can sense a strong confidence in Sieb, fifth of ten children, forced to leave school at sixth grade to look after her younger siblings, tend pigs, and manage other work while her parents labored wherever they could find work to keep food on the table for a family of 12.
Sieb’s story is by no means unique; many Cambodian women face a similar reality after an abusive relationship. Sieb is tremendously brave to strive to improve family’s circumstances after so much hardship. We are absolutely delighted she’s making the best use of the opportunity provided to her through the Counseling and Reintegration program in establishing an income and standing on her own two feet.
On behalf of the hundreds of women served by the Counseling and Reintegration program, we thank you for your support and generosity!
In any country, not having a proper education creates a lot of added difficulties and risks for a person, and this holds especially true for women. It becomes more difficult to get a well-paying job, and in Cambodia it can even cause young girls to try to migrate to Thailand to find work.
Lotus Outreach designs its programs empower women economically and allow them to avoid risky behaviors like migrating to find work. Migrating puts young women at great risk of violent crimes, trafficking and rape.
For the many women who cannot avoid these perils, Lotus Outreach offers reconciliation through our Counseling and Reintegration program. Please consider donating— a week’s counseling can be provided for only $10.00!
Mulika is one such woman who has benefitted from counseling and economic reintegration services provided through this program. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
Now 16 years old, Mulika dropped out of school at a young age due to her family’s extreme poverty. She travelled to Thailand by herself to find construction work, leaving her parents and her two siblings behind. She did manage to arrive and to find work in Thailand, but the danger for young Mulika was not over.
A Cambodian man who was Mulika’s coworker at the construction site forcibly raped her, beat her, and sliced her face with a broken bottle. She was seriously wounded and was hospitalized for her injuries.
Her wounds required multiple surgical treatments, and so Mulika was transferred back to a Cambodian hospital in Banteay Meanchey, near the Thailand border. The incident traumatized Mulika, and her family incurred significant costs in obtaining the medical treatments she needed. Her sense of self-worth plummeted, and things were made worse when her Cambodian fiancé decided to separate from her.
Fortunately, Lotus Outreach’s Counseling and Reintegration program was there to catch her as she fell. Mulika’s parents sought help from our local partner, the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, and placed Mulika in the center’s residential care program.
Mulika began participating in group counseling sessions, learning to manage her depression and her anger. The anti-social behaviors which she exhibited when she joined the program lessened, and as she became more engaged in the therapy she was able to smile and make friends once again.
Counseling and Reintegration aims not just to help women reconcile their traumatic experiences, but also to prepare them for life and work beyond living in the crisis center. Mulika is attending literacy classes at the shelter, and she is learning the skills which her impoverished background had always denied her.
What’s more, the center has helped Mulika to file charges against her attacker, a Cambodian man who at the time of this report was still at large. Prosecuting their assailants gives some reconciliation to the survivor, and successful prosecutions help keep other women safe from dangerous rapists and abusers.
Mulika still has a long way to go, and dealing with the experience of a violent rape and traumatic migration is not easy. She is beginning to feel better, and she is grateful that Counseling and Reintegration is there to give hope, even to the hopeless.
Thank you for contributing to support these brave survivors!
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