A sweet, 11-year-old girl is Child Rescue’s first case in Cambodia this year.
To protect her identity, we will call her Nary, which translates to “small, beautiful bird” from the country’s language, Khmer. In January, government officials handed Child Rescue’s social workers a troubling case. Nary was living with her impoverished family while being exploited by a man who, as of last month, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his crimes. As the eldest, Nary would tend to her younger siblings and often mediate fights between her parents. Her father struggled with alcohol addiction while her mother worked to provide for the family. Nary also worked at a restaurant to earn extra money, with a trusted family friend often driving her home from work. However, on the way home, he would rape her and then threaten her not to tell a soul.
The sexual abuse of children is often at the hands of someone they know; even someone they and their family trust. In Cambodia, a third of girls, who are sexually abused between age 13 and 17, are exploited first by a friend, according to a survey in 2013 coordinated by children’s rights agency United Nations Children’s Fund. Offenders use this position of power to further scare and manipulate the child into silence.
In this instance, her offender’s crimes did not remain a secret, and he was arrested with a case brought against him. Our social workers then visited Nary and her family. She came to live in one of our residential homes, where she spent a long time with our counselor. A few months after her rescue, the world went into lockdown due to the pandemic, forcing Child Rescue to close its residential care homes in Cambodia. Our staff worked hard to safely place girls back home with their families, setting up communication, and providing supplies and food. Nary, who was now 12, worked well to recover from her trauma and, after missing her family, happily accepted the opportunity to return home. Her family is now more unified and working hard to turn their lives around. With the financial support provided by our community care program, they are currently building themselves a home, which will help ensure their place in the community and the safety of Nary and her siblings. It is encouraging not only to see her life and family restored, but a criminal held accountable for his actions and made to answer to the law. This story is a victory on multiple fronts!