When 11 year-old Thuk came to our shelter her behavior was described as that of a caged animal. Frustrated by confinement, she tried to run away time and again; her hair was unkempt, her skin was dirty and covered with scars. She trusted no one, and if she got angry she ran outside and hid in the bushes.
Running away was Thuk’s coping mechanism at home, too. It was her only escape from the abuse of her parents, both of whom beat her severely. She’d never been to school. Last May, she was found hiding in a forest near her home and was brought to our after-care center in Sisophon, Cambodia.
Thuk’s arrival was disruptive to life at the shelter. When she disappeared, which was often, everyone dropped what they were doing to look for her. For weeks she wouldn’t talk to anyone except the monitoring officer that referred her to us; it wasn’t until her third month that she even began coming to her counseling sessions. Everyone was careful with her, and she got very angry if not given attention when she sought it.
Thuk finally began meeting with her therapist in August but showed up irregularly and often late. Even then, she still refused to speak. Kumni had her mold clay into simple figures – things she liked, things she didn’t like, things she was afraid of.
Slowly, Thuk began to share her thoughts in words, although her early voice was barely audible. Moreover, she oddly referred to herself always by a different name. Kumni asked her to draw pictures of her experiences, and at first Thuk only drew from positive memories. Kumni taught her how to make flowers and jewelry, slowly gaining her trust and establishing a safe space. One day while drawing, Thuk opened up and told Kumni her story in her own words.
Over the course of her therapy, Thuk’s behavior changed drastically. She now comes to her appointments when they are scheduled and she is much more cooperative in doing what she is asked. She is attentive to her appearance and personal cleanliness, washing regularly and combing her hair.
Thuk has been enrolled in school and wants to be a teacher. She worries about succeeding because she has missed so much, and she doesn’t want to go home. Her mother gambles, both her parents travel to work in Thailand and she has no reason to think they will stop beating her. Our local partner is looking at options for long-term care so Thuk can continue to grow and study in a supportive environment.
Outcomes like these bear testament to the patience, love and hundreds of hours our counselors put into their patients. Their work is transformative on the minds, hearts and souls of the women and children that find themselves here. But it is your support that makes it possible for us to provide girls like Thuk with this sanctuary while they recover. Thank you for helping Thuk make her final escape – literally out of the woods, and into a life of nurturing.
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