Cambodia was renowned as a sex tourism destination in the 1990s and this legacy is still prevalent today with women and girls trafficked within the thriving sex industry in Cambodia's major cities. Despite significant attempts to curb CSE, NGOs report the industry has been pushed underground and sex offenders are still able to purchase sex with children through an intermediary rather than more overt selling of sex in brothels. Boys and young men are also vulnerable to sexual exploitation, with many entering the massage industry due to a lack of training and skills. Amaya’s story demonstrates that family problems and child abuse can lead to children turning to those who would sell or exploit them. After Amaya was rescued by the police she was referred to Hope for Justice and began her rehabilitation program. She worked through her trauma and began healing from the pain of her past. She began to discover a new dream for her future.
My real father passed away and my mom remarried. She needed to work day and night to earn money to provide for us. My family life went downhill. Sometimes we didn’t have food to eat. I felt so disappointed and had lots of questions. Why did my life turn worse and worse just like falling into a pit? Why was my family situation so terrible? We did not have any money even though we worked so hard.
There were two dreams – I wanted to have a hair salon and become a pop singer.
One day a relative of mine was drunk and raped me. I felt angry and afraid. During that time I kept the rape a secret. I was full of shame and did not know how to explain it to anyone. I could not tell my mum what had happened – I was so ashamed I went to live with a friend.
She brought me to work in a place without telling me what kind of job it was. I was brought to a brothel.
I felt depressed and thought, why do only bad things not good things happen in my life? One day a group of clients raped me in a graveyard. They left me alone there and I felt like an animal. I returned to work to serve customers as I was told. Later, I always cried in front of my customers.
I felt that my life was like a doormat for others to step on and manipulate me.
Later on there was a group of police who came to rescue me and many other exploited girls. They spoke to us without respect at all. Instead they called us bitches – they spoke really painful words to us.
When I was brought to Hope for Justice on the first day I felt so excited and happy.
The atmosphere was like a family which made me feel warm. I wanted others to know that this is the best place that can wake you up from the bad dream and help you return to a good life. I want girls who come here in future to learn from my example.
As told to Hope for Justice