Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma

by Lotus Outreach
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma
Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma

This is a story of vulnerability and prevention. Sometimes children are lucky and come into the care of agencies and those working on keeping children safe.

Raksmey is one of these. 

She was taken into care at a confidential shelter due to the fact her main caregivers were absent and when her mother came back into the picture, planned to take her out of school and sent her to work in Thailand with all the vulnerabilities and dangers that come with that. 

Fortunately, in her case, she had enough education and presence of mind to know something was terribly wrong and to make the police complaint that led to her getting the help she needed.

This is her story… 

Raksmey, now 16 years old, was born in Ochrov district of Banteay Meanchey province, right on the Cambodian Thai border. When she was five years old, her parents divorced and went their own ways. 

Raksmey was sent to live with a woman in another area of Cambodia. Soon after, her mother migrated to work in Thailand and her father never came to visit her. In a sense, she was orphaned. 

Fortunately while staying with this woman, Raksmey was able to complete her studies through 10th grade. However when her benefactor began to face extreme financial difficulty and could no longer support her, this all changed.

Raksmey’s mother came to know about the situation and came back from Thailand to take Raksmey with her. At first her mother promised she would allow Raksmey to continue studying, but as soon as they arrived near the border town, her mother told her she would have to work with her in Thailand. 

Raksmey implored her mother not to go to Thailand She wanted to continue her studies and graduated high school. Her mother could not agree to this so Raksmey decided to take action.

On 10 February 2019, while her mother was taking a nap, Raksmey ran away from home. She went straight to the police to report her story and seek their intervention. 

The police took this young girls’ story seriously, demonsterating a keen familiarity with human trafficking and exploitation. After registering her case she was referred to the confidential shelter for support, counseling and her eventual reintegration into a safe situation where she could continue on a positive path. 

The confidential shelter’s initial assessment of her case and state was that she was in a difficult situation and facing a high risk of being exploited -- by her very own mother.

Currently, Raksmey resides in the shelter. The shelter team identified some of her relatives living in the town nearby. They agreed to bring Raksmey to live with them and to support her living and her study. Being in the same town, the shelter staff will closely monitor Raksmey’s situation and additionally are helping to identify further study options for her.

It now looks like Raksmey will be able to complete her schooling and work toward reaching her full potential in life.

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Tuich with CTC head counselor at the shelter
Tuich with CTC head counselor at the shelter

Most victims of rape and trafficking referred to Consoling Through Counseling are children. 

The past 10 years has seen a huge percentage-wise increase in arrests and convictions in the cases of rape and sexual abuse.

The importance of the Consoling through counseling program is underscored by the fact a large proportion of victims of trafficking and sexual abuse cases referred to the CTC program over the past few years have been children.

Over the past 10 years we have also seen a major shift for the better in the attitude of police and judiciary resulting in huge percentage wise increases in arrests and convictions in cases of rape and sexual abuse. The legal program run by Lotus Outreach’s CTC partner, Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre, has played a very important part by pushing for reform and for action to reduce high pendency in cases of abuse against women and children.

Srey Tuich (name changed to protect her identity) now 15 years old, has recently completed a series of six court hearings culminating in conviction of the ringleader of a trafficking for begging ring in Bangkok. CTC program counselor Soknyi accompanied Tuich to each and every hearing, five times to the Thai border and for the final closing of the case in Bangkok.  

Tuich is 4th in a family of seven siblings from the Cambodia province of Kompong Thom. Her biological father is in jail for raping his own daughter. Piling tragedy upon tragedy, her mother then separated and took another husband who beat the children regularly. Tuich has a hearing problem and physically seems to have the condition of dwarfism. Her mother, seeking to exploit her, contacted a person that managed a 10 children begging team in Bangkok and Tuich was taken to Thailand and left there to beg. She was not allowed to call mother, was beaten, tortured and forced to beg. She ran away one time and was caught so they tortured her after which she didn’t runaway again.

Thankfully, Thai Police finally arrested her and deported her to Cambodia and on September 7th, 2016 she entered the safe shelter and the CTC program. Police are still looking for the mother, as she was the instigator in trafficking of her daughter. Tuich continues to attend school while the program searches for an NGO to provide long term care for her.

Tuich's final court hearing in Bangkok
Tuich's final court hearing in Bangkok

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Skills Training, Tailoring and Handicrafts--Ways to Wellness and Empowerment

We’ve often shared with supporters of this program the impact that care and counseling has on the young women and children that enter this program as victims of rape, trafficking and domestic violence. Our counselors are highly skilled and provide appropriate therapy on an individual basis. It takes a lot of time and infinite patience to reach a traumatised child and bring them back so they can relate to people and trust again.

Among the myriad of therapeutic approaches used to heal and rebuild trust in these young women and girls, we have employed a professional tailor to provide sewing and handicraft skills. Working on their own projects, together in a small group, allows young minds to heal at their own speed. Whether learning to cut and stitch a dress or making a fancy beaded bracelet, all the participants find joy learning how to create something with their own hands. Working together everyday without any pressure also provides opportunities to develop trust and a sense of ease with people again.

Skills training to support livelihood is another important element attached to the counseling program. The ability to make a living independent of others provides essential support for the successful reintegration back into the community and eventual re empowerment of the individual.

Every year we try to identify three or four young women in counseling for skills training scholarships. The type of skill provided depends on the preferences of the girls themselves. Beauty salon, hair and makeup is the preferred skill chosen by girls in the past few years and which makes sense as graduates are easily able to find a job in a salon or set up as successful small business, even in the remotest village.

Being educated and having a skill is so important to the development of their self-esteem. Those applying for the training award are over the moon to be receiving training they otherwise couldn’t afford and are very happy when working in the beauty salon environment.

The Empowerment of Srey Pich 

Pich left school to help her mother with a small home based grocery business after completing only grade 5. At 13 she was lured into a relationship with an older boy. The boy was arrested and Pich ended up at the shelter filled with a sense she’d brought a great shame on her family. After several weeks of keeping to herself she gradually opened up to others assisted by regular personal counseling sessions. Pich enjoyed the sewing and handicraft sessions and eventually applied for Beauty Salon skills training. Even though only 13 years of age at the time, she was very enthusiastic which earned her the training award.

Pich was very skilled at salon work and began earning good money after 6 months of training! We recently visited her at her very own salon and where she can average $5 per day and double that in the marriage season where she can earn $20 for one marriage.

At the ripe age of just 15 years Pich tells us, “I am overcome with happiness…I love what I do and I can finally support myself with what I earn! 

Happy to make a living using her new skills
Happy to make a living using her new skills
Making bracelets and hairbands is therapeutic
Making bracelets and hairbands is therapeutic
Busy training
Busy training

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A group counseling session in action.
A group counseling session in action.

The goal of this program is to provide a safe-shelter, counseling, and supportive services to victims of domestic violence, rape, trafficking, other forms of sexual abuse and exploitation. Since December 2018, the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center has served a total of 69 survivors and 32 relatives. This program continues to be successful in the counseling aspect, but also the reintegration process which serves as a pivotal point in a survivor's life. Through the different counseling disciplines used at the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, this program works to shed the sense of shame and guilt that is often associated with abuse and exploitation. Below is a story of Kimly*, a survivor of labor exploitation and sexual abuse.

Kimly’s mother passed away when she was young and her father later married. Her changing family dynamics forced her to live with her grandmother who was very poor. After sometime, her grandmother could not afford to feed her, so she told Kimly to work to support herself. She worked very hard as laborer. Laborer jobs are often unregulated and can be a dangerous place for young women. Kimly was sexually assaulted several times at the workplace. Unfortunately, she didn’t report it.

Kimly’s grandmother was no longer able to look after her so she gave her to a neighboring family. Her neighbors were also poor and there she still had to work as laborer. After some time, she decided to migrate to work in Cambodia-Thailand in Poipet where she worked for 20 months as domestic helper without receiving any wage. In addition, her Cambodian house owner also confiscated her belongings. Kimly decided to flee and went to report her case at Migrant Reception Center (MAC) where she met and reported her case to an anti-human trafficking police officer. She was then referred to CWCC to stay at the shelter in early November 2018 awaiting for her case to be solved.

At the shelter, she first felt fearful and unsure of her new environment. She was depressed and experienced difficulty connecting with others. The counselor started spending time with her in efforts to build trust and confidence. They encouraged self-reflection and interaction with the other clients. Eventually Kimly felt more comfortable and was able to develop supportive friendships with the other clients through group counseling and participating in shelter activities. She has experienced great improvement at the shelter.

Currently, Kimly is still residing in the shelter waiting for her case to close. She has good overall health and and has been attending hairdressing and beauty salon courses outside the shelter sponsored by Lotus Outreach. The CWCC staff will continue to assist and follow up her case.

Thank you for believing in this program’s mission. Your generosity is changing lives.

Kimly* is a name given by the writer. Her real name is hidden to protect her privacy in accordance to child protection policy of CWCC.

 

 

Jumping for joy!
Jumping for joy!
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Your impact is immense and allows this multifaceted program to serve these valiant survivors by providing counseling and reintegration services. For this report we are providing you an in depth look at all the components that make up this successful program. This is a standard quarterly update which explores details about the program such as individual, small and big group counseling and how many hours were spent with girls and women from the categories of trafficked, sexually abused and domestic violence.

Individual counseling is of course extremely important, the benefits are self- evident. Counseling time in small groups of clients with similar experiences makes it easier for girls and women to share deeply traumatic experiences. Victims have conflicting emotions, pain and anger along with guilt and shame. Small group counseling helps them to deal with these emotions in a safe environment.

Victims are categorized as children (under 18), between 18 and 22 (young adults) and 23 and older. They are further categorized as victims. ‘Survivors’ is a term used by governments and development agencies with a view to discourage the psychological trap of becoming a ‘victim’ which is a weaker position than the strength associated with being a survivor.

These groupings allow us to make comparative analysis within and over many years and see for instance, what if any changes have occurred over time in terms of incidence and between the categories. One very interesting and encouraging outcome over time is a big change of the better in terms of perpetrators being charged and convicted for their crimes, especially in cases of rape and sexual abuse and which are mostly children. Survivors of sexual abuse are now more easily able to reintegrate back into their communities while the perpetrators serve long jail sentences. This makes a huge difference to Cambodian society where not so long ago, rapists were able to destroy the lives of women and children with impunity.

We hope that supporters of the CTC and Reintegration program and readers in general benefit from reading this otherwise, rather formal report.

Consoling through Counseling Component:

  • The counselor has spent 61 hours and 35 minutes to provide 82 individual counseling sessions for 21 survivors and 7 relatives who were staying in the safe shelter. Among the 21 survivors, 5 were victims of human trafficking and exploitation, 6 were victims of sexual abuse and 10 were victims of domestic violence.
  • The counselor has spent 8 hours and 10 minutes to provide 8 small group counseling sessions to 15 survivors at the safe shelter. Among the 15 survivors, 4 were victims of human trafficking and exploitation, 10 were victims of sexual abuse and 1 was victim of domestic violence.
  • The counselor provided counseling sessions for 9 times to 21 survivors and 3 relatives at the safe shelter. 10 hours and 30 minutes were spent in total. Among the 21 survivors, 5 were victims of human trafficking and exploitation, 10 were victims of sexual abuse and 6 were victims of domestic violence. 
  • 30 people – 5 survivors of human trafficking and 5 relatives, 10 survivors of sexual abuse and 3 relatives and 6 survivors of 1 relative – participated in 9 weekly meetings in the shelter. 18 hours were spent in total.

In addition to this sewing class inside the shelter, three existing clients have been continued to attend hair-dressing and beauty salon course at a private beauty salon shop outside of the shelter. Of three, two were the clients who have attended class since last year 2017 and one was just started class in May 2018. Furthermore, there was another one client starting this course in this quarter, July 2018. All in all, there were four clients continuing their course in this third quarter of the year. The project is still looking to recruit another client to offer support to attend this hair-dressing and beauty salon course due to budget available.

During this third quarter of 2018, the monitoring and legal aid project received a total of 19 new cases consisting of 8 domestic violence survivors and 11 sexual abuse survivors. The lawyer filed 9 new cases including 4 cases of domestic violence and 5 cases of sexual abuse to Banteay Meanchey’s first court of instance. In addition, 4 cases were tried at court, including 2 of domestic violence and 2 of sexual abuse.

The (21) beneficiaries of the individual counseling sessions were victims of the following:

a)     Under 18: (15 in total)

-       Human Trafficking & Exploitation: 4

-       Sexual Abuse: 10

-       Domestic Violence: 1

b)    From 18 to 22: (0 in total)

-       Human Trafficking & Exploitation: 0

-       Sexual Abuse: 0

-       Domestic violence: 0

c)     Over 22: (6 in total)

-       Human Trafficking & Exploitation: 1

-       Domestic Violence: 5

-       Sexual Abuse: 0

During this quarter, there were a total of 11 clients (DV=2, SA=5 & HT=4) attending the sewing training in the shelter. Of 11 clients, 8 were existing sewing trainees and 3 were new trainees (SA=2 & HT=1) who has just started class in this quarter. The existing trainees, in this quarter, had produced 10 trousers and 10 pants. The new trainees were trained on how to use sewing machine, sewing techniques, cutting fabrics and connecting pieces of fabric to be a complete trouser or pant. The sewing trainer also took sometimes to create pleasant activities in class by teaching the clients on how to produce souvenirs in order to release their stress as well.

Reintegration Component:

  • The reintegration officer interviewed four survivors of which one is the survivor of domestic violence, two are the survivors of sexual abuse and one is the survivor of labor trafficking in order to develop case plans for reintegration.
  • The reintegration officer conducted four family and community assessments for two cases of domestic violence and other two cases of sexual abuse. The assessments were all conducted in Banteay Meanchey. As result, three out of the four could got back homes whenever they are ready to do so. However, one case of domestic violence won’t be able to go back home at the near future. She does not have a close family and she does not have her own home. The family who she used to stay with is not her extended family or relative. In this regard, the reintegration officer will further work with her to re-plan for her reintegration.
  • One survivor of domestic violence with one relative (her son) and one survivor of sexual abuse were reintegrated back to their homes while another survivor of human trafficking with 5 relatives (her sons and daughter) was facilitated to stay at a rented room based on her request. The reason behind her request to stay at a rented room along with her children is to live on her own life as she had stayed at the safe shelter for a long period of time. She also needs to run her own business as well. All of the reintegrated survivors are in Banteay Meanchey and were jointly facilitated by Social Affairs officials. Besides reintegrating them back homes or a chosen place, they were all given a package of support to start-up their lives. The package of support included food commodities, rice and kitchen utensils.
  • The reintegration officer conducted follow-up visit to six reintegrated survivors including 3 survivors of domestic violence, 2 survivors of sexual abuse and one survivor of human trafficking. They were all met during the follow-up visit. The reintegration officer found that they were all living happily at home in good health, both physical and emotional. Nothing should be worried about. However, the reintegration officer will continue to follow up them in order to see their further progress and to provide ongoing support and counseling if necessary.
  • Two cases of human trafficking were closed by the reintegration officer. Through follow-up visit and observation found that they have been living happily with their family in Battambang and Pursat provinces respectively. They are also in good health. One of them, the 13-year-old survivor who lives in Battambang province, is now attending school nearby her house. Her family is taking a good care of her.

We hope this report gave you insight into how any lives you have empowered. Without your help, this underserved community would not be given hope. Thank you for your support.

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
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Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Maya Norbu
Ojai, CA United States
$27,562 raised of $30,000 goal
 
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