Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma

by Lotus Outreach
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
Counselor accompanies a survivor for a home visit.
Counselor accompanies a survivor for a home visit.

The Counseling and Reintegration Program continues to work with survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking. From January to September our two counselors spent time providing 74 individual counseling sessions to 31 survivors. Of that 31, 17 were survivors of human trafficking, 3 were survivors of sexual abuse, and 11 were survivors of domestic abuse. In this time frame the counselors also accompanied 4 clients to court proceedings and trials. Since September the counselors have also attended a refresher course that discussed new techniques for counseling.

Currently our Reintegration program is working with 22 survivors on creating a plan to return to their communities. Our Reintegration team has reintegrated 11 survivors and 3 relatives back into their communities since September. They also followed up on 45 cases making sure the clients were safe and happy back in their communities.

The following is a story about Reaksa's survival and her efforts to create a better life:

Reaksa*, aged 15 was born in Pursat province. Due to family poverty her family moved to Banteay Meanchey in 2014. Her father has since passed away and her mother at age 45 is unemployed. She is the fifth of six children. Reaska stayed in school up to the third grade.

On the 28th of September 2014, Reaksa was drugged by her rapist who secretly put medicine in her food. She was sleepy immediately after eating and was then sexually assaulted. When she awoke she was naked and very frightened. On the 3rd of October 2014, Reasksa told her mother about the incident and her mother accompanied her to file a complaint against the rapist with the district police on the 6th of October 2014.

On the 17th of October 2014, her mother accompanied her to ask for legal and social support services from CWCC including temporary residence at the shelter. At the shelter, she received good care from the counselors and shelter staff. There, she received accommodation, meals, clothing, necessary materials for girls, counseling, health care, and legal counseling and representation. After a few months Reaksa felt warmth and relief.

Due to her request and readiness to return back home, the reintegration staff had conducted a family assessment on the 6th of January 2015 and decided together that she could reintegrate home. On the 12th of January 2015, Reaksa was reintegrated back home in Banteay Meanchey and provided with life start-up support. The reintegration staff continued to follow up with her after reintegration.

During her stay at the shelter, Reaksa, her mother and the reintegration staff discussed about a possible business for Reaksa and her family. Her family is very poor and have all been living in one room that they rent. After the reintegration took place, Reaksa and her family came up with an idea of requesting a small business grant to buy a pulling cart to start a business at the Poipet international border.

The reintegration staff helped Reaksa and her family to develop a small business grant and it was then approved by CWCC. With the amount of $400 US dollars, a small grant was disbursed to her on the 25th of February 2015. Reaksa and her family can now buy a big pulling cart which they could earn between 200 to 300 Thai baht per day. With this earning, they could survive for their daily consumptions and room rental.

The Reintegration program has followed up three times since June 2015. The reintegration staff will continue to follow up to see her and her families progress.

Reaksa’s*  real name is hidden to protect her privacy in according to child protection policy of CWCC.

A counselor organizes group play for survivors
A counselor organizes group play for survivors
A survivor receives life start-up support.
A survivor receives life start-up support.
Dana in jean jacket. Blurred to protect identity.
Dana in jean jacket. Blurred to protect identity.

Hello supporters of CWCC!

Since the last report, CWCC counselors have provided a total of 142 individual counseling sessions to 32 clients. With regular meetings, the counselors have noted that the survivors have had a durastically postitive change of their overall well being. Below is a story of a young girl who is receiving care and support from CWCC, here is Dana's story. 

Dana*, one of the recent survivors of sexual abuse at CWCC, is 15 years old. She is the middle child of three siblings. Dana was born in Prey Veng province. Due to poverty, her father moved to Battambang province to work as cook for wedding events. Dana also moved to stay in Phnom Penh and worked as t-shirt artist. She was earning a very small wage that that would not meet her simple everyday needs so she was forced to move to Poipet in January 2015. In Poipet she made more money as a toilet cleaner at Longkleu market in Aranhyaprathet district, Thailand. Dana rented a room at Longkleu market and stayed and worked.

Late at night in February, Dana was raped in her apartment. Her room was locked but the rapist had the key to unlock it. "He threatened me not to shout if I wanted life. I dared not to shout for help", Dana was quoted when recalling the incident during counseling.

After the incident, Dana told her neighbor and aunt about the rape and they told her to report the case to the Poipet police. The police then referred Dana to the CWCC to stay at the safe shelter where she could recover and receive legal support.

Dana experienced a lot of fear and discomfort during the first few days at the CWCC. She said she was very homesick and missed her family. Dana was worried about her court case and was afraid of reprisal from the rapist. The counselors reported that she looked very sad and depressed and liked being alone. She couldn’t concentrate and wanted to go home. After receiving counseling from the CWCC and building relationships with her counselors, she was able to reflect on her strengths and reduce her own stress. She was able to start healing from her trauma through participation in small and large group counseling and meetings. The counselors conducted regular follow-up on Dana’s progress. To reduce her homesick, Dana was accompanied by a CWCC counselor to visit her family and home.

Dana is currently staying in the shelter. She is now healthy both physical and emotionally. She has a good relationship with other survivors and shows her bravery in her ability to speak about her incident with friend and counselors at the shelter. Currently she is attending a sewing class at the shelter. CWCC will continue to take care of her and follow up on her case.

CWCC wishes to express its gratitude to all of its donors who belive in their mission and who continiously allow survivors like Dana to heal from their trauma. 

 Dana*is a name given by the writer. Her real name is hidden to protect her privacy in according to child protection policy of CWCC. The photos are blurred to protect privacy.

Survivor releases stress with art project.
Survivor releases stress with art project.

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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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