Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma

by Lotus Outreach
Art therapy at the shelter.
Art therapy at the shelter.

Currently we have 53 clients in our Consoling through Counseling program. Twelve of those rape cases include survivors who are under the age of 18. Our work with these young clients continues to be necessary for the proper healing and eventually the reintegration back in to society. With the appropriate attention, these survivors recover and go on to live fulfilling lives. Below is the case study of a client who was sexually assaulted by a family member and is now in our care facility.

Srey Lys is the oldest of three siblings. Her parents work as laborers on the Thai-Cambodian border (crossing daily) where her father got to know another man who started working with them. They became good friends and eventually the man became the godfather of Srey Lys. He requested that the children come and stay with him at nights sometimes to keep him company because he said he was lonely. The parents felt okay about this because he was like a grandfather to Srey Lys, and she would be accompanied by her brother. During a visit, the godfather asked Srey Lys's brother to sleep downstairs and raped Srey Lys. Her brother heard what had happened from the lower floor and told his parents. Sry Lys’s parents took the case to court. The man was arrested by the police and has been taken into custody. He is now in jail awaiting the sentence. Sokni, the CTC counselor, accompanied Srey Lys to court several times. We are still awaiting the verdict.

When Srey Lys first arrived at the shelter, she came with her mother and refused to be left alone. Although Srey Lys was reluctant to stay in the shelter, she didn't want to go back to her village because of the embarrassment that she felt. Her mother convinced her to stay at the shelter and to attend court so that she could complete the case and receive treatment. Srey Lys agreed and enrolled into the school close by to the residential shelter. (It is common that the children at the shelter attend the school near the residential shelter. The teachers work with the counselors to ensure that the client's needs are met. This allows the survivors to continue their studies and have some normalcy in their lives.)

In terms of her behavior, at first Srey Lys was particularly unfriendly towards the other clients in the shelter and responded in a mean and aggressive way if people spoke to her.

Soknyi, the therapist, would ask Srey Lys to paint and color to help get her mind off the negative thoughts and reduce her aggressiveness. She reminded Srey Lys about the rules of the shelter which includes being kind towards others. Soknyi encouraged Srey Lys to be constructive with her energy and put it towards crafts and school.

When Srey Lys would hit people, Sokni would tell her it’s wrong to hit and hurt others. After enough interventions, Srey Lys is now refraining from hitting people. She is also studying hard and has enjoyed sewing after school. These elements have added to her healing process and allowed her to feel like herself again. Although making improvements, it is apparent that Srey Lys will need to recover at the shelter for a while. Rather than staying in her home village and having to deal with the heightened sense of shame and self-consciousness, the shelter encourages a safe place in which there is constant support for the survivors.  

Once she is ready to return home, we will make sure that she has the correct support. As for right now, we are continuing to focus on her healing process.

Thank you to all the donors who have supported survivors like Srey Lys!

Srey Lys and her therapist at the shelter.
Srey Lys and her therapist at the shelter.
Kimmy, a counselor at the shelter.
Kimmy, a counselor at the shelter.
The counselors and the reintegration officer.
The counselors and the reintegration officer.

Below is a brief summary of the Counseling and Reintegration Program in 2016:

  • 25 survivors (Domestic Violence =2, Sexual Abuse =9 & Human Trafficking =14) and 8 relatives were referred to safe shelter. We added to 12 survivors (DV=5, SA=1 & HT=6) and 5 relatives from the previous period.
  • Total = 37 (Domestic Violence=7, Sexual Abuse=10 & Human Trafficking =20) and 13 relatives stayed at the safe shelter in the first semester of 2016.
  • Of 25 cases, 21 are under 18. The high number and % ratio of youth and children being served is something we are making a point about.   

A summary of the activities coducted by the counselors in 2016:

  • The counselor had spent 47 hours providing 77 individual counseling sessions to 24 survivors who stayed in the CWCC's safe shelter. Of 24, 17 were survivors of human trafficking, 4 were survivors of sexual abuse and 3 were survivors of domestic violence.
  • The counselor provided 9 small-group counseling sessions to 19 clients at the CWCC's safe shelter. Of 19 survivors, 14 survivors of human trafficking, 4 survivors of sexual abuse and 1 survivor of domestic violence which spent 9 hours and 25 minutes.
  • The counselor provided 21 big group counseling sessions to 22 survivors and 2 relatives at the CWCC's safe shelter which spent 29 hours and 20 minutes. Of 22 survivors, 15 were survivors of human trafficking, 4 were survivors of sexual abuse and 3 were survivors of domestic violence.
  • There were 17 survivors of human trafficking, 4 survivors of sexual abuse and 3 survivors of domestic violence and 2 relatives (totally 26) participated in 5 weekly meetings in the shelter for a total of 5 hours.

The (24) beneficiaries of individual counseling sessions are as the following:

 a)    Under 18: (totally 21)

-       Domestic Violence : 1

-       Sexual Abuse: 4

-       Human Trafficking: 16

b)    From 18 to 22: (totally 1)

-       Domestic violence: 0

-       Sexual Abuse: 0

-       Human Trafficking: 1

c)     Over 22: (totally 2)

-       Domestic Violence : 2

-       Sexual Abuse: 0

-       Human Trafficking : 0

We hope that this report displays the continued progress of the Counceling and Reintegration Program. Thank you to all of the donors who faithfully believe in the healing of these girls and women. It is with your support that the beneficiaries may heal from their traumas and seek bright futures.

Art work done by the women/girls.
Art work done by the women/girls.
The counselors at the center
The counselors at the center
A counselor with two survivors.
A counselor with two survivors.
Arts and crafts at the safe shelter.
Arts and crafts at the safe shelter.

Between January and June of 2016, Lotus Outreach’s Consoling Through Counseling program hosted a total of 37 survivors and 13 relatives at the safe shelter in Banteay Meanchey. Out of the 37 survivors, 54% were survivors of human trafficking, 27% were sexual abuse survivors, and 19% were domestic violence survivors. In all cases, the survivors attended individual, small group, and large group counseling sessions.

The following is a case study of a resilient 15-year-old girl, Srey. Srey was born in Thailand and is the youngest in her family. Unfortunately, when Srey was 12, her father passed away. After the death of her father her mother still worked at a fertilizer production enterprise in Thailand. Srey attended school as well as helped her mother earn money where ever she could.

One day in 2015, Srey was sexually assaulted by two unknown men when her mother was away at work. The intruders threatened to kill her mother if she told anyone about the incident. Days later the men came back and assaulted her again while filming a video of the incident.

Srey’s school teacher noticed that Srey’s behavior was strange so she asked her if something was wrong. Srey told her teacher everything that had happened to her. Once the teacher let her mother know, her mother submitted a complaint to the Thai police. Srey was sent to an NGO’s safe shelter for care and waited for the court case to proceed. In August 2015 she was sent to Cambodia through Poipet Transit Center and finally she was referred to stay at CWCC’s safe shelter in Banteay Meanchey on the 13th of August 2015.

Srey did not feel good about staying at the shelter for the first few days because she didn’t know the other clients who were residing in the shelter. She really missed her mother and siblings who were all still in Thailand. She wanted to go back to Thailand. She hid in her bedroom and did not want to talk to other clients.

The counselor started to build a relationship of trust and provided individual counseling and admitted her to join the group counseling sessions with other clients in the shelter. Srey attended group games and activities in the shelter such as drawing, painting, crafting, and playing with toys and other games. Srey started to speak more and more with the other survivors and share her story.

Today, Srey feels better about staying in the shelter with the other clients. She is stronger physically and emotionally. She gets along with the shelter staff and the other clients. She attends counseling and shelter activities. She is currently waiting for her mother to return to Cambodia. The counselor will continue to follow up on her progress.

Srey is grateful to all of the donors who have supported her recovery. Without your help, survivors would not have the chance to heal from their traumas.

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

Individual counseling
Individual counseling
Large group therapy.
Large group therapy.
Group therapy.
Group therapy.
A Counselor working with a group of children.
A Counselor working with a group of children.

A brief overview and update: 

  • Underlings the importance of this work, 9 of 10 survivors of trafficking receiving counseling in the shelter were children.
  • Of 24 survivors of trafficking, 17 were children and 2 under 22 years of age. Thankfully, most of the human trafficking cases are concerned with labor while two young adults (18-22) and one over 22, were survivors of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
  • Unlike in previous years, most all of the sexual abuse cases have been to court and perpetrators are in custody.
  • Four children and five youth over 18 years received sewing skills training for therapeutic and educational purposes.

All of the children survivors of trafficking came through the Cambodian/Thai border town of Poipet and the Thai repatriation center. Our partner NGO is also supporting one social worker at the government transit center to identify children and women victims of trafficking. Most of the children are dependents of undocumented migrants, flower sellers, and beggars.

The three cases of Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation had been sex workers. They are children were discovered during a Police raid in a Poipet massage parlor.

We feel that due to work like CTC, high rates of imprisonment and convictions have significantly reduced the sense of impunity in potential abusers. Fear of social media and increased sensitization and ‘humanization’ of those involved in implementing the law; border forces, police, judiciary and etc.

Below is a story of 9-year-old Vannit who was found begging on the streets of Thailand: 

We met Vannit at the confidential shelter for a few minutes when she was brought in to meet us. Looking at her you wouldn’t have any idea what she’s been has been through. Rather, she looks like any bright eyed and intelligent primary school kid which is a testament to the work done with her at the shelter and the bonding established with her counselor.

After Vannit’s parents got divorced her mother took her to Thailand to work. Her mother put her to work making and selling flowers on the street, which is often a front for begging. A child left alone on such streets is highly vulnerable to kidnapping and abuse. She was ‘arrested’ and taken off the street without locating her mother. She was sent by herself to a Thai shelter for 6 months. She was then sent to the transit center from where she was referred to the confidential shelter and entry to the CTC program in August 2015.

Vannet was immediately enrolled in 1st grade, as she hadn’t been in school before. School took Vannet's mind off of missing her mother and gave her something productive to do. On her arrival to the shelter, she could only think of how much she missed her mother. We can only imagine what her mom thinks about her disappearance.  

Vannit told the Reintegration program officer that she lived in Mokul, somewhere near the border. The officer went searching for the grandmother but couldn’t find her. CTC has still not found her mother, but they continue to look. 

Vennit has attempted to escape and look for her mother but the counselor at the shelter advised Vennit that it’s very dangerous to leave the property unaccompanied. Vannit has finally settled down at the shelter and has started to interact with other children. She now enjoys to paint and draw with the other children. The councilor at the shelter keeps Vannit company and helps her with her homework. She now really enjoys her study and is showing signs of great intelligence.

We can only hope that one of these days her mom walks through the door.

Program officers tell us it’s a terrible reality that many trafficked children are separated from their parents in the same way and with no reference to their parents that have no idea if their children are alive, dead or worse.

Thank you to all that support this program! Vannit's hopeful that her mother will return, but until then she is in good hands. She will continue to be enrolled in school and making strides in her studies.

Vannit with the counselor working on homework.
Vannit with the counselor working on homework.
Chakrya with a counselor
Chakrya with a counselor

As the first report in 2016, we will take some time to recap some of the milestones in 2015. The Counseling and Reintegration Program has made great leads! There were a total of 127 survivors, along with their relatives, that arrived at the shelter for care in 2015. In comparison to the last few years, in 2015, most all of the sexual abuse cases were taken to court and perpetrators were put into custody. In 2015, 34 survivors were reintegrated to their communities which included 14 domestic violence cases, 7 sexual abuse cases, and 13 human trafficking cases. 10 individuals received professional training to prepare them for small business grants. The following is a story of a Chakrya, a survivor rape. 

Chakrya* is from Thmar Pouk District in Banteay Meanchey where she lived with her mother and father and her younger siblings. Her parents migrated to Thailand to look for work and so Chakrya was sent to live with her older sister (20 years old) and her husband (26 years old). While Chakrya was staying with her sister, her sister's husband broke into her room one night and raped her on 3rd of October 2015. He then told her that he would kill her if she told anyone. Her brother in law raped her twice, once at night and once during the day. Chakrya was afraid to tell anyone about what had happened but fortunately she was very brave and spoke to her mothers’s close friend and neighbor (who she calls Aunty). Once her mother found out, she called the police station and filed a report.

The police acted quickly and arrested the brother in law. The District Based Multi Sectoral Network member (the policeman who works closely with CWCC) contacted CWCC on 7th of October to advise them of the case. With the local authorities working closely with CWCC, they were able to intervene quickly. On the 8th of October, the Community Organizing Officer and the Monitoring Officer from CWCC went to the police station to enquire about the details of the case and to meet with Chakrya. She was referred to the Referral Hospital to undergo a full medical check-up including a test for STD’s. On the 9th October Chakrya was brought to the shelter to stay.

At the shelter, Chakrya was not feeling comfortable at first because she didn’t know anyone. The shelter focused on building trust with Chakrya with joint counseling and group activities with other clients. She joined the small and large group counseling. In those groups she was incouraged to share stories, produce souvenirs, and paint and draw pictures. She began to feel more at ease. Her mother also returned back from Thailand to visit her, and her father called her from Thailand to check in on her.

The CWCC is helping to prosecute the brother in law by providing a lawyer for the case. Chakrya has to attend the court to give evidence and CWCC ensures that she is accompanied by a counselor. Along with the medical evidence provided, the brother in law has confessed to his crimes and is awaiting his sentence. CWCC believes that justice will be served in this case.

When Chakrya lived with her parents and then her sister, she was unable to attend school as they could not afford it. Since coming to the shelter, Chakrya has started to attend school and says “I really like school and I want to study”.

In her free time after school Chakrya likes to play games with her friends. She likes to play on the playground at the shelter and she loves drawing pictures. Chakrya stated, “I like staying here because I feel happy and not scared and all the staff here look after me.”

Thank you to all of the donors who have supported the Counseling and Reintegration Program. Chakrya has had all of the support that she has needed during this difficult time. She continues to grow and make strides towards health.

Chakrya* is a name given by the writer. Her real name is hidden to protect her privacy in according to the Cambodian National child protection policy 

Small group counseling
Small group counseling
Group play at the shelter
Group play at the shelter

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Ojai, CA United States

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