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Trauma recovery center brings new life to trafficked girl

After experiencing horror that no child should have to face, this Cambodian girl has found a new outlook on life. But tragically, she’s just one among millions of children trafficked for exploitation worldwide.


December 2010



Ka* in Cambodia.
Never did Ka* imagine that one day she would become a victim of sexual trafficking.
Photo ©2010 Heidi Isaza/World Vision


"I left home when I was 16 because of the poverty," Ka* explains.

Life in Cambodia was very hard for Ka and her family. While other children were going to school, Ka helped her siblings scavenge for cans and beg for money on the streets.

Enslaved for $6


On the advice of a friend, she headed for the Thai border in search of a higher-paying job.

But once she arrived, she found no decent work. Out of desperation, Ka ended up working in several different clubs or brothels.

In one instance, she was indebted to her employer for $6 — an amount that kept her captive for two years, forced into prostitution, facing sexual exploitation by up to 10 men each night. Eventually, a police raid on the brothel set her free, only to put her on the street alone, yet again.

With nowhere to go, she was forced to work in yet another brothel. After two more years in captivity, she and another girl secretly phoned the police, in an attempt to escape.

Two days later, the police arrived. Ka was taken to World Vision's Trauma Recovery Project, where she received physical, psychological, and spiritual counseling, as well as occupational training.

A massive problem

Millions of children each year are trafficked for forced labor, sexual abuse, or other exploitation. “Anywhere from 30,000-60,000 children [are] possibly involved in the sex trade," says Joshua Pepall, technical advisor to World Vision's Trauma Recovery Project, speaking about children in Cambodia.

The sex industry is especially harmful to children, who are in high demand. Pepall explains that children are seen as cleaner, more complacent, and easier to control and manipulate. "Their families are poor," says Pepall. "They come from the provinces and they get into this cycle of debt, and actually all they want to do is help their family."

Reunited

Ka and her mother were reunited after four years.
Ka and her mother were reunited after four years.
Photo ©2010 Heidi Isaza/World Vision
In the time that Ka was missing, her mother, Phea*, traveled more than 260 miles in search of her. “[I went] to different places to search for my daughter…sometimes, I slept on the street, says Phea.” “My best friend [during this time] was alcohol—I cried myself to sleep every day because [I found] no sign of her year after year.”

After four years of separation, Ka’s stepfather found her at the center when a relative and World Vision staff member, discovered she was there.

Lingering fear


The owners of the brothel where Ka last worked have been sentenced to eight years in jail. But because they are in powerful circles, Ka was concerned that they may seek revenge if they were released. “I was the master of the plan to break down the brothel … they would kill me if they found out where I was,” Ka says.

It is not easy for the traffickers to find her, now that she is far from where they are serving their prison terms. But she still fears that someone might recognize her. “I am always very careful when going out … it could be [one of] my previous customers or whoever knew the brothel’s owners. I don’t talk to strangers, nor do I go out alone,” Ka explains.

World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Center works closely with the district social affairs officer in Ka’s community, who visits every month to see how she and her family are doing. If he suspects any danger, he informs the authorities.

Starting over

Ka is still adjusting to life with her mother after more than four years apart. “It first [felt] strange because I got used to living with many other girls,” she says, adding that she now loves being with her mother more than anything else.

The young woman now has a job as a chef’s assistant. “The priority is to help my parents to live in better conditions,” she says. “When I save up enough, I will continue studying how to read and write. So, in five years I will open my sewing shop.”

‘He wipes away all the bad things’

As Ka continues to recovery emotionally, she looks to God for comfort.

“I have a bad dream almost every night,” she says. “I pray to Jesus, then he wipes away all bad things in my dream and I can sleep. I can witness [to] people about the amazing thing God has been doing in my life.

“When I was in the center, I made a pledge with God. [I said] Lord, if you are really doing something in my life, assure me that I will [be reunited with] … my mother one day. Now, you can see how God responds to my pledge. It’s truly amazing.”

Learn more


>> Learn more about child trafficking and how U.S. legislation can help curb this practice.

Three things you can do

>> Pray for protection and healing for those who have been exploited through trafficking. Pray for those working to assist children and other vulnerable individuals who have been trafficked. Pray for an end to this horrific practice.
>> Call your senators to voice your support for the Child Protection Compact Act (S.3184), a bill to provide support to countries that are serious about fighting child trafficking within their own borders.
>> Donate now to help provide hope for sexually exploited girls like Ka. Your gift will offer assistance like medical care, safe shelter, nutritious food, education, trauma recovery counseling, and more.

Forward to a friend

Learn more

Learn more about child trafficking and how U.S. legislation can help curb this practice.

Three things you can do

Pray for protection and healing for those who have been exploited through trafficking. Pray for those working to assist children and other vulnerable individuals who have been trafficked. Pray for an end to this horrific practice.
- -

Call your senators to voice your support for the Child Protection Compact Act (S.3184), a bill to provide support to countries that are serious about fighting child trafficking within their own borders.
- -
Donate now to help provide hope for sexually exploited girls like Ka. Your gift will offer assistance like medical care, safe shelter, nutritious food, education, trauma recovery counseling, and more.

 





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