World Vision Cambodia
article • Friday, July 1st 2016

A beautiful dream, a bitter past

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“I grabbed a knife in a rage and was going to kill him after I heard the awful story from my daughter Chenda* but my relatives stopped me, tying me to a tree while they went to the police to have him arrested,” says Samnang*.

As normal, Samnang, 40, and his wife had left Chenda, 8, and her younger sister at home while they sold food outside a factory. When they returned, Chenda was clearly distressed.

“I saw her body shaking,” her father recalls in tears. “Her face was pale, like all the blood had gone. She kept crying and finally told me what had happened.”

Samnang’s trusted friend had brutally raped Chenda, the girl coming close to death as he beat and strangled her in the family’s wood home. Then she was forced to witness the man hurl her dog to the ground, the pet dying before her eyes.

"I saw her body shaking. Her face was pale, like all the blood had gone. She kept crying and finally told me what had happened.”

After the attack, Chenda refused to go anywhere, doing nothing except hiding and crying under a blanket behind a closed door. She was scared of men, including her father, and wouldn’t respond to anyone, even her mother.

A few days later, Chenda was taken to one of World Vision’s partner organisations which referred her to World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Centre. The centre provides safe accommodation for victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse, as well as health care, counselling, non-formal education, vocational training and legal support. 

The centre manager says, “When she first arrived at the centre, Chenda always cried, ran away and hid when she saw a man.”

After assessing her, the centre provided Chenda with therapy for individuals with high levels of trauma. A child-friendly environment, recreation activities and the genuine care of a member of staff known as her house mother helped Chenda to fully recover from her deeply distressing experience over a year's time at the centre.

Too young to start vocational training, Chenda instead took classes in computing and three languages, Khmer, English and Vietnamese. She also enjoyed lessons in skills for children, such as beading and dancing, becoming the best classical dancer, making friends with people of all ages and offering to help others learn. “She acted like a real teacher when she was teaching,” adds the centre manager.

“If I earn a lot in the future, I will give some to the poor and victims like me because I want them to see the world is great too.”

To ensure her reintegration and offer her household a sustainable income, World Vision has provided training to her parents in basic counselling, parenting skills and a small business. The local project has also built a new wooden home for the family and given them items such as a cart to sell food.

The village chief has focused on safety over the last year by having security guards patrol the community during the day and night. Meanwhile, Chenda’s attacker was arrested and sentenced to jail for 12 years.

Chenda is now 13 years old and among the top students in the school near her home.

Samnang says, “I’m happy to see that my daughter has recovered and is doing well at school. She’s turned out to be just as happy as the other kids in the village.”

His daughter adds: “My dream is to be a doctor because I could care for my parents so we wouldn’t need to spend money on treatment and I could earn a lot for my family. I’ll study hard and further to see the world and show people what I can do.

“If I earn a lot in the future, I will give some to the poor and victims like me because I want them to see the world is great too.”

 *Name changed to protect identity

Story by Chanthany Chea & Photos by Ratha Ung, Communications, World Vision Cambodia

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