Help a Trafficking Survivor Heal From Her Trauma

by Lotus Outreach
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.
Phallis, a counselor at the Reintegration Program
Phallis, a counselor at the Reintegration Program

CTC (Consoling Through Counseling) is a program designed to reintegrate and console survivors of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, rape, trafficking, and exploitation. By facilitating discussion, support, and activities, CTC works with the survivors to process their traumas. CTC supports these women as they shed their shame and guilt. CTC then reintegrates the women into their families and communities by making sure the process is done correctly and safely. These women attend support groups and continue to have services to help them along the ongoing process of healing.  

Phyma (who’s name has been changed to protect her identity) is a survivor of trafficking who has returned from Malaysia to her home in Cambodia. She is from a family of 6 siblings and lives in the Battambang province.

Phyma's family was living in severe poverty whiched forced her to migrate legally to Malaysia two times in search of work, both in 2007 and in 2011. The second time she migrated in 2011, she found herself in serious trouble.

This time, Phyma found a job working as a domestic helper receiving a wage of 800 ringgits a month (US$266). The wife of the house owner started to get jealous of Phyma and routinely would not allow her to eat meals. She fled from this job and became an undocumented worker. She found herself a new job as a domestic helper and faced even worse circumstances. Phyma was raped and became pregnant. She found out that the house owner intended to sell her into a brothel. Phyma said, “I had mental problem at that time. I did not know what I said. And sometimes took off my clothes…” Phyma took the opportunity to escape and found a way to cross the border from Malaysia to Thailand where she met IOM and was referred to CWCC (Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center) for help.

Phyma met with CWCC’s to identify her case. She was given shelter in Banteay Meanchey for proper services before returning home. At first in the shelter she said was scared and was afraid to speak. She alienated herself and experienced depression. She did not take care of her personal hygiene and felt that ghosts were haunting her.

With the help and guidance of a caring counselor, Phyma worked hard to overcome the obstacles that were keeping her recovering from her sexual abuse and rape. The counselor listened carefully to Phyma and encouraged her to draw pictures and express her fears and hatred in a safe environment. Through this technique of art therapy, Phyma began to reflect on her own feelings and began to improve.

With great courage and strength, Phyma showed great strides towards living a happy life again. She said that she was finally loving herself again and taking care of her pregnancy. Her dreams of ghosts and abuse have started to fade with time, and new dreams for her future are emerging. With the assistance of CWCC’s reintegration project, Phyma has made the transition of moving back home to her family. Currently she is living happily with her newborn. With your support and the assistance and services provided by CTC, Phyma continues to follow up with the program and shows a promising future for her and her child. 

Art therapy project produced at the CTC program
Art therapy project produced at the CTC program
Sokny, Senior Counselor of CTC
Sokny, Senior Counselor of CTC

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.

Counselor, SL, baby, and another victim (left)
Counselor, SL, baby, and another victim (left)

Links:

Lee reunited with her family!
Lee reunited with her family!

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

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Aptos, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.lotusoutreach.org
Project Leader:
Elise De Grande
Executive Director
Sacramento, CA United States