Wednesday, September 30, 2009
*All statistics are taken from “Hidden in Plain View” Mayors Report and the CSEC Senate Study Commission Meeting featuring the Shapiro Group Researchers in conjunction with The Juvenile Justice Fund.
o Atlanta has more strip clubs per capita than Las Vegas
o 80% of adult prostitutes begin between ages 12-14
o 1 in 3 women in the general population are victims of childhood sexual abuse-- this number is usually higher for women in the Adult Entertainment Industry
o In the state of Georgia alone, approximately 250 girls are recruited into prostitution on a monthly basis. There are over 4,000 strippers who work in the 40 adult entertainment clubs in and around the Atlanta area and statistics show there is a clear link between pornography, exotic dancing and prostitution.
o #1 site for prostitution is Craigslist
o The prices for erotic services on Craigslist are measured in "roses"
o When the mayor wrote Craigslist about this problem, they simply said, "We're only responding to demand."
o After much complaining, there is now a statement about GA laws and a link to the APD on the Craigslist erotic services pages but victims are STILL BEING BOUGHT AND SOLD on the site.
o When Atlanta raised the ordinance so that women under 21 could not get their dancing permit, it took 2600 girls off the stage
o Atlanta will become the 48th city in the United States to start a "John School" -- a school for first offenders to realize the effects of prostitution related activities
o The Shapiro Group, in conjunction with the Juvenile Justice Fund, estimates that when a young girl is dressed provacatively, she is assumed to be 8 years older than she actually is-- this leads many men to believe they are buying services (sex, lap dances, erotic services in general) from a legal woman, when in reality, she may be a child.
o When surveying Atlanta for areas of prostitution and trafficking, the Shapiro group has found that where strip clubs and hotels meet, illicit sexual activity is usually happening-- researchers sat in major hotels and watched the traffic from the strip clubs into the hotels
o Out of 500 escort phone numbers, 85% go to 3 main call centers-- this shows there are 3 main escort services that are trying to have the appearance of many different businesses. There is a organized nature to trafficking and sexual exploitation.
o There are 400-500 listings for erotic services/day on Craigslist
o Prostitution as a symptom—the victims are not running to the street, they are running from their homes.
o 75% of minors are controlled by a pimp
o There are more domestic minor sex trafficking victims in the US than international victims in the US
o Approximately 1.7 million runaway/throwaway episodes occur every year in the U.S., and 90% of runaways become a part of the sex trade industry. This recruitment doesn’t take much time or effort; 1 in 3 teens will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.5
o We can't make these victims compete with child abuse victims-- child abuse is revealed because of an outcry, CSEC victims do not speak out, they deny out of fear and intimidation.
we went to the park just like any other night and tonight bug really showed her stuff by being a crazy girl.
she did this all by herself. yes i freaked me out a bit but she did it and she did it with NO FEAR.
here she is doing the "skin the cat" for about the 15th time. if you don't know what that is basically from this position she will pull her legs all the way through and then land on her feet. she starts off in the standing position with her hands on the bar and then pulls her feet up and her legs through and down. there was about a 4ish or so little girl at the park that could not even get her feet up to the bar. :)
and of course, not to be content with sitting on the tire swing. we had to try standing on it like the big kids do!
Friday, September 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
In PLAYGROUND, filmmaker Libby Spears unravels the gut-wrenching atrocities that children face in America’s sex trade and trafficking industry. When she began shooting PLAYGROUND, Spears initially focused on international countries but quickly found that the problem of child prostitution was disturbingly in high demand right here in our own country. Through interviews with actual victims, social workers, and even pimps and johns, Libby was able to construct and display just how massive the problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children really is in the U.S.
please watch this movie clip with the knowledge that it is very graphic.
if you would like to attend the movie with us, please email me, email@example.com
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Seven years after the industry agreed to abolish child labor, little progress has been made.
(Fortune) -- Outside the village of Sinikosson in southwestern Ivory Coast, along a trail tracing the edge of a muddy fishpond, Madi Ouedraogo sits on the ground picking up cocoa pods in one hand, hacking them open with a machete in the other and scooping the filmy white beans into plastic buckets. It is the middle of the school day, but Madi, who looks to be about 10, says his family can't afford the fees to send him to the nearest school, five miles away. "I don't like this work," he says. "I would rather do something else. But I have to do this."
Sinikosson, accessible only by rutted jungle tracks, is a long way from the luxurious chocolate shops of New York and Paris. But it is here, on small West African farms like these, that 70 percent of the world's cocoa beans are grown - 40 percent from just one country, Ivory Coast. It's not only the landscape that is tough. Working and living conditions are brutal. Most villages lack electricity, running water, health clinics or schools. And to make ends meet, underage cocoa workers, like Madi and the two boys next to him, spend their days wielding machetes, handling pesticides and carrying heavy loads.
This type of child labor isn't supposed to exist in Ivory Coast. Not only is it explicitly barred by law - the official working age in the country is 18 - but since the issue first became public seven years ago, there has been an international campaign by the chocolate industry, governments and human rights organizations to eradicate the problem. Yet today child workers, many under the age of 10, are everywhere. Sometimes they're visibly scarred from their work. In the village of Lilo a young boy carrying a machete ambled along a road with a bandaged shin. He said he had cut his leg toiling in a cocoa patch.
The big cocoa exporters - Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM, Fortune 500), Barry Callebaut and Saf-Cacao - do not own plantations and do not directly employ child workers. Instead, they buy beans from Ivorian middlemen called pisteurs and treton. These middlemen own warehouses and fleets of flatbed trucks that travel deep into the jungle to buy cocoa from the small independent farmers who grow most of the crop. But labor and human rights activists charge that Big Chocolate has an obligation to improve working conditions on the farms where so many children toil. They argue that the exporters and manufacturers bear ultimate responsibility for conditions on the farms because they exert considerable control over world cocoa markets, essentially setting what is called the farm gate price.
The controversy came to a head in 2001, when U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation mandating a labeling system for chocolate. The industry fought back, and a compromise was reached establishing a voluntary protocol by which chocolate companies would wean themselves from child labor, then certify that they had done so. The certification process would not involve labeling of products, but it would call for public reporting by African governments, third-party verification and poverty remediation by 2005. When none of those deadlines was met, the protocol was extended until July 2008. To turn up the heat, the U.S. Department of Labor contracted with Tulane University to monitor progress.
Tulane recently released its first report, and though the tone is polite, the picture isn't pretty. Researchers found that while industry and governments in West Africa have made initial steps, such as establishing task forces on child labor, conditions on the ground remain bad: Children still work in cocoa production, regularly miss school, perform dangerous tasks and suffer injury and sickness. The report criticized the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana for lack of transparency. And it said the industry's certification process "contains no standards."
In some respects the situation only got worse after Harkin-Engel. From 2002 to 2004, Ivory Coast was gripped by civil war. As militias and renegade soldiers killed and raped their way across the lush interior, income from cocoa exports helped fuel the fighting. Like diamonds and timber, cocoa became a so-called conflict resource. "Blood chocolate" was providing fast cash for armed groups and creating misery for common people. Since 2004, Ivory Coast has settled into an armed peace, with French and UN troops keeping the warring factions apart. But chocolate exporters and manufacturers say the war and its aftermath have hampered their efforts to eradicate child labor.
The industry's two main trade groups, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and the National Confectioners Association, say tens of millions of dollars have been spent on building a socially responsible cocoa sector across West Africa. But the Tulane report criticizes the industry for not providing specifics to back up those assertions. And on the ground there is little evidence anyone is paying much attention. "What protocol?" asks Ali Lakiss, the director general of Saf-Cacao, the largest cocoa exporter in Ivory Coast, which controls about 20 percent of the trade. "The farmers don't get the best price. If the cocoa price is good, then kids go to school. No money, and kids work at home."
Ivorian government officials likewise describe their efforts to stop child labor as robust, but they remain fuzzy about details. "This is our No. 1 export," says N'djore Youssouf, the technical adviser to Ivory Coast's presidential task force overseeing Harkin-Engel compliance. "This issue is taken seriously at every level of the government." But Youssouf acknowledges that remediation "has not yet begun."
Outside Sinikosson, El Hadj Madi Sankara cultivates 27 acres of cocoa, from which he usually harvests ten tons of beans, earning about $9,000 a year but remaining deeply in debt. Sankara and his 11-year-old son, Ibrahim, are preparing a large mound of cocoa pods for processing. "I want to help my father," says Ibrahim, standing on a pile of pods, toying with his machete. "I need to learn how to be a farmer." His sentiment captures the complexity of the child-labor issue here: Typically it is poverty that compels child labor, not greedy overseers.
Soon a group of young men and boys join the work. Among them are 8-year-old twins Hassan and Hussein. The boys, the children of a neighbor, are helping Sankara make his harvest on time. Their payment won't be in cash, but in reciprocal help from Sankara's family to their father. Not one of the kids goes to school. "We're all doing a hard job," says Sankara, "but we do not get a just price."
Cocoa prices have been declining in recent years - currently about 90 cents a kilo - because of corruption and a poorly planned economic liberalization. President Felix Houphouët-Boigny, who ran Ivory Coast from the late 1950s until the mid-1990s, borrowed heavily against his country's assets and wasted the money on megalomaniacal vanity projects, such as the world's largest basilica - built in the country's desolate interior. During his reign, Houphouët-Boigny invited in hundreds of thousands of Muslim farmers from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to grow cocoa. These immigrants produced abundant and profitable crops, and Ivory Coast became one of the region's more prosperous and stable countries. But the newcomers were not given citizenship, identity papers or legal rights.
When the bills on Houphouët-Boigny's squandered loans came due in 1999, the government imposed fiscal austerity and liberalized the economy. Its marketing board, Caistab, was defanged, prices were deregulated and new oversight agencies and development funds were created to support the market and aid farmers hurt by lower farm gate prices. According to European Union and World Bank audits, these new government bodies now collect three times as much money from the cocoa sector, much of it from exporters, as did the old system, but they spend little on infrastructure or subsidies. In short, not much money gets past corrupt officials and down to the farmers.
Economic hard times followed, and many native Ivorians turned against the immigrants from Burkina Faso and Mali. Demagogues preached a xenophobic creed that they called Ivorité, and in 2002 ethnic tensions exploded into civil war. Now, with the front lines frozen and the armed peace holding, the many non-Ivorian cocoa workers, like those who live in Sinikosson, are trapped on remote farms. The dirt roads connecting them to the main markets are controlled by hostile, corrupt police and soldiers who threaten them with deportation or shake them down for bribes. "I've not been into the main town for four years," says Aladji Mohamed Sawadogo, the chief of Sinikosson. "The last time I tried to go I did not have enough money to pay all the bribes at the checkpoints. I am just stuck. These are the conditions in which we live."
With a wispy beard and a thin, weather-beaten face, Sawadogo looks older that the 55 years he claims. He admits that the village children work, including his own. He even allows them to be interviewed. "I'd like to be a mechanic," says one of his kids, who looks to be about 7 but says he is 11, "but I have to farm cocoa." Adds Sawadogo: "We are not happy that we ourselves live and work like this. Of course we don't want it for our children. But there is no choice."
What would make a difference? "Better prices."
Down the road from Sinikosson is the warehouse of Aboulaye Trooré, who buys the cocoa harvested in the area. "It is all going to Cargill," Trooré says, as some of his men unload 150-pound bags of cocoa from a truck.
The farmers in Sinikosson do not know that Cargill buys their beans, but other farmers in the area are on painfully intimate terms with the Minnesota company. In the town of Thoui, members of a local farmers' cooperative say that borrowing money from Cargill has trapped them in debt and forced some of them to take their kids out of school and put them to work. "There is no other way we can buy fertilizer or feed our families throughout the year," says N'guessan Norbert Walle, a former president of the cooperative.
If farmers can't pay back their debts, they risk arrest. When Walle ran the co-op, his manager was jailed, he says, on orders from Cargill. The arrested manager, Lucien Adje, a former accounting student, says he was taken to the port city of San Pedro and put in a small cell. "You had to do everything in one place - you know, urinate, defecate. I couldn't eat much, it was so filthy."
The correct procedure for collecting debts is to go to court and seize collateral, so Adje's arrest was illegal. But, as one farmer explained, "In Ivory Coast, the illegal is normal." An executive at an Ivorian export company confirmed that such arrests take place. "I don't know the specifics, but I do know that some exporters have arrested people who owe them money."
Cargill denies any wrongdoing. "We have never paid for, or requested, the detention of managers or members of farmer cooperatives, and we do not support illegal detention," says company spokesman Steven Fairbairn. As for child labor, Fairbairn says the company is working hard to fix the problem: "We require that all our direct suppliers of cocoa beans in West Africa sign a statement acknowledging that they understand that we are committed to the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa supply chain. If suppliers are found to be employing such practices, their contracts are subject to termination."
But Cargill has yet to terminate any contracts over the issue of child labor. And it and other exporters say they don't have an obligation to pay higher prices. "We are just an intermediary," says Saf-Cacao's Lakiss, "between the farmers and international markets in London."
Hershey (HSY, Fortune 500), like other major chocolate firms, signed the Harkin-Engel protocol and maintains it is working. "The protocol's value is seen in measurable progress on the ground," says Kirk Saville, a Hershey spokesman. "It has created greater community awareness of child welfare issues and increased incomes for family farms and access to education."
But Hershey has no direct role in implementing reforms in Ivory Coast. Instead, the protocol required the industry to create a foundation to oversee certification. That body is the International Cocoa Initiative, or ICI, headquartered in Geneva and funded by the chocolate industry to the tune of about $2 million a year. The foundation began its work in Ivory Coast in 2003, and it claims to have six pilot projects underway there. "We are doing high quality, scalable work," says Peter McAllister, ICI's executive director. "We've not yet had a significant effect, but it's a journey." He is unfazed about the looming July 2008 deadline: "We don't see it as ending in 2008. Our process works, and we're committed for the long term."
But the foundation has only one staff member in Ivory Coast, Robale Kagohi, and his activities appear limited. "One of the main problems is the moral poverty of the people," says, Kagohi, sitting in a tiny office in the basement of a building in Abidjan that houses a corporate law firm. "That is why we are spending so much time on education." He explains that the anti-child-labor campaign has so far favored "sensitization" - workshops with local officials, police and farmers to explain that child labor is wrong and that if it continues Ivory Coast will be shut out of world cocoa markets. On the roads there are billboards urging people to say no to child labor.
Farmers describe these efforts as more akin to intimidation than to education. "People are worried that America will not buy our cocoa anymore," says Julien Kra Yau, director of a farmers' cooperative in Thoui. "That would be very bad." Adds the co-op's treasurer, Raymond Kouasse Kouadio: "It would be a total catastrophe!"
ICI's other work involves helping a nongovernmental organization called the Movement for Education, Health, and Development, or Mesad, provide accommodation and education to homeless street children. But no children from the cocoa sector were staying at the shelter on a visit last fall, and the group's director, Kouakou Kouadio Watson, says ICI has supported only eight underage former cocoa workers, who lived at the shelter for periods of between one and four months. The shelter is a squalid mess, smelling of urine, and a few filthy children sleep on the concrete floors.
The industry's evident lack of compliance with Harkin-Engel puts everyone involved in a difficult position. New coercive legislation requiring "child-labor-free" labeling could cause trouble for the large cocoa exporters and chocolate manufacturers if there were boycotts of non-labeled chocolate. But impoverished farmers in Ivory Coast say loss of markets would also hurt them and their children. Since the idea was first floated in 2001, the chocolate industry has taken the same position: Labeling "would hurt the people it is intended to help," says Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and the World Cocoa Foundation.
There is fair-trade chocolate on the market, but it accounts for no more than 1 percent of global supply - and the movement has little traction in Ivory Coast. A more effective way to combat child labor would be for the government of Ivory Coast to invest some of the revenue it gets from high taxes on cocoa exporters in education and social services to help poor farmers. But the government of Ivory Coast is ranked among the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International, a nongovernmental watchdog group. And it seems happier making excuses than changes.
Angeline Kili, head of the government body tasked with financing and regulating the cocoa sector, blames farmers from Burkino Faso and Mali for whatever child labor violations may be occurring. "They need labor, so they have kids working, sometimes with the bad consequences," she says. "Sometimes they traffic children. Child labor wasn't a big problem, but it became a big problem recently. You have to remember, all cocoa farmers worked as kids. Our president worked on a farm with his parents for no money."Rep. Engel, for one, isn't happy with the lack of progress. He and Senator Harkin plan to travel to Ivory Coast soon on a fact-finding mission of their own. "We have given the industry plenty of time," Engel says. "I am not prepared to give another extension."
This article is from Fortune.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Human trafficking has become a major concern specifically in Georgia for a number of reasons. First, Atlanta, Georgia is home to Hartsfield International Airport which is a central connection for most domestic and international flights. As such, traffickers are able to traffic a large volume of their victims both internally and internationally to and from Atlanta, Georgia. Second, Georgia has a large immigrant population that is undocumented. As such, traffickers are able to prey on these victims by extracting forced labor, domestic servitude and sexual services without any fear that the victims will contact the police department or immigration. Finally, Atlanta, Georgia is infamous for its large sex industry. Strip clubs, prostitution, and escort services are abundant. Consequently, all these reasons work together to create the perfect climate for human trafficking in Atlanta, Georgia.
This information is from Jamaicans.com.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Restaurant in Woodstock
busted for running sex ring.
Federal agents said they raided a Mexican restaurant on Tuesday after reports that the owner was running a prostitution ring out of the establishment. Agents preformed a search warrant at La Cabana restaurant, located on Main Street in Woodstock, and a nearby house on Jaime Way over the weekend.
Federal agents said they had evidence that the owner of the restaurant, Mercedes Arteaga, had smuggled in illegal aliens and forced them into prostitution. There were reports that he ran the operation from La Cabana and from his home nearby. An attorney for Arteaga said that he was innocent.
On Tuesday night, there were customers coming in and out of the restaurant, and no one questioned had suspected any illegal activity.
According to the affidavits, there were only women smuggled and used for prostitution. The women came from Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
And the Federal investigators said that after-hours the restaurant changed into a brothel with an all male clientele.
According to 11Alive.com,
The FBI was brought into the case after Woodstock police received numerous complaints about the business's after-hours activity. "Usually loud music," said Sgt. Paul Brown. "We've had disturbances that have spilled out of the restaurant into the parking lot." Sgt. Brown says most of that activity happened after midnight.
The house that is nearby on Jaime Way is owned by Arteaga and said to be where some of the women who work at the restaurant live. Neighbors have reported seeing a lot of traffic in front of the house, with cars pulling in and out of the drive way at all hours of the night and picking up Hispanic women around twelve times a day.
Federal agents have said that there are no formal arrests made yet. Woodstock police say three people were arrested as a result of outstanding warrants not connected to the "Human Smuggling" investigation.
September 2, 7:45 PMAtlanta Sex and Relationships ExaminerKrista Hadaway
This article is from the Examiner.
3 Americans Face Child-Sex Charges
Men Arrested in Cambodia Are the First Prosecuted Under Trafficking Initiative (yeah yeah yeah i know its cambodia and not the usa but this is happening here too and these men are from california!!! ~ me)
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31 -- Three Americans accused of traveling to Cambodia to have sex with children are expected to be charged in federal court here, officials said Monday, marking the first prosecutions under a new international initiative intended to combat child-sex tourism.
The initiative, Operation Twisted Traveler, targets Americans who exploit children for sex in Cambodia, which experts describe as a top destination for child predators. U.S. and Cambodian authorities, as well as nongovernmental organizations, were involved in the effort.
"This level of cooperation is unprecedented," said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which coordinated the initiative with the Justice Department.
Before arriving in Los Angeles on Monday, the suspects -- Ronald Boyajian, 49, Erik Peeters, 41, and Jack Sporich, 75 -- were arrested by Cambodian authorities on charges related to child sexual exploitation. They are expected to make their initial appearances in federal court Tuesday afternoon.
The three men are current or former California residents, and all are registered sex offenders, authorities said. An attorney for Boyajian did not respond to a call to comment. The other two men do not yet have attorneys.
Child-sex tourism -- whereby minors are sold for sex through brothels or solicited off the street -- has long been part of the landscape in Cambodia. Like most countries where the crime occurs, such as Thailand and Mexico, Cambodia is a poor nation, with a $600 annual per capita income, according to the World Bank. In desperation to pay for food or health care, some families sell their children to foreign pedophiles or sex houses.
It is difficult to know how pervasive child-sex tourism is in Cambodia, or in any other country, because of the illicit nature of the crime. Undercover investigators, working with human rights activists, continue to find many brothel owners and traffickers selling minors for sex in Cambodia.
There are increasing reports of men traveling there to have sex with underage girls for as much as $4,000, according to the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report of 2009. The report designated the Southeast Asian country as among those that should receive special scrutiny because it has not made enough progress in eliminating the problem.
Cambodia has made some efforts. Over the past year, after enacting laws with anti-trafficking provisions, the government convicted a dozen offenders and prosecuted nearly 70. U.S. legislation, including the PROTECT Act of 2003, has also targeted trafficking. The legislation bolstered federal laws targeting predatory crimes against children outside the United States by expanding the range of crimes and increasing penalties.
Officials say Twisted Traveler, launched in October, will help enforce existing laws. Under the initiative, the FBI and ICE trained the Cambodian National Police and local police in Phnom Penh, the nation's capital.
"Some part of what we're trying to do here is change attitudes and change acceptance of child-sex tourism as something that's always been around or can't be changed," Carol A. Rodley, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, said in a telephone interview. "And I think that's very much true of the Cambodian police -- that their attitudes about the issue have changed in part because of the collaboration."
Authorities in both countries relied on information provided by Action Pour Les Enfants, a nonprofit group, and the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency. Their involvement, Rodley said, marked a breakthrough for Cambodia, which historically has had an uneasy relationship with such organizations because of their criticism of the government.
In a statement announcing the latest allegations, officials said Boyajian, of Menlo Park, Calif., is accused of having sex with a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl. Peeters, of Norwalk, Calif., is accused of engaging in sexual activity with at least three underage Cambodian boys, paying them $5 to $10. Sporich, of Sedona, Ariz., is accused of sexually abusing at least one Cambodian boy, and of driving through city streets on his motorbike, dropping money as a way to attract children.
If convicted, the men face sentences of up to 30 years for each victim.
Officials said they hope the arrests will deter would-be sex tourists. Over the past six years, ICE has arrested more than 70 suspects nationwide on charges of child-sex tourism.
"The appeal of a place like this is that it's very far away, and pedophiles feel like they can come here and be anonymous and be outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement," Rodley said. "I hope the message that it sends is one of deterrence." (emphasis mine to make sure you dont miss it).
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
This story is from the website Freedom For Girls.
Sophea’s Misplaced Trust
By Katie Chalk
Sophea is only fifteen.
Each time she tells her story it's a little different, a little closer to the truth. It’s never easy for a victim of trafficking to admit how trusting they once were, how easily they had been tricked along the way.
When she met her trafficker at the age of fourteen, she had just returned from three years in Thailand, including a year away from her family working as domestic help for a rich family in Bangkok.
With all that traveling and working, she must have thought herself very grown up. “Sometimes I went to sing karaoke in my town,” she says. “One day a woman came to sing there too, and she talked to me. She wanted to know if I was looking for a job. She knew of one in Siem Reap that paid 3000 baht a month (nearly US$100)”
“My mother said it was up to me. So I decided to go.” Did she like the woman who promised her such a good start in life? At this question she becomes confused, looks down at her hands with their brightly painted nails.
Finally she explains that she liked her very much. The woman was well-known to her. She was the mother of Sophea's boyfriend.
“Instead of taking me to Siem Reap, we went to a guest house in Udor Meanchey (near the Thai border),” says Sophea. “Then she told me that if we wanted to get to Siem Reap I would have to sleep with the driver as payment. He came into my room, forced me and told me he’d already paid 500 baht for it. Later that night there was another man.”
Next they traveled to Battambang, where they stayed three nights. There were more men, but no money in sight. “I wanted to run away,” says Sophea, “but I had nothing, and my family was too far away now.” Afraid of everything, she did as she was told.
As they headed towards the Thai border once more, Sophea spoke up for the first time about her treatment. Her trafficker reassured her and implied that she would soon organize a wedding between Sophea and her own son. Sophea was left in the hands of brothel owners and told to wait around a month.
"Life there was unbearable," says Sophea. "The men liked young girls and I was the youngest. I had all sorts of customers, Thai and Cambodian – I hated them all. Worst were the beatings if I said no. They gave me drugs and told me afterwards that I would need to pay for them out of my salary. I was never given any money at all, only more drugs."
Sophea woke up from her abusive haze when she realized she had been waiting a year for her boyfriend or his mother to come to her rescue. She managed to escape long enough to make a phone call to her grandmother who called the police.
Rapha House is the first place she’s felt safe in a long time. “I feel good here,” she says. “I feel secure, nobody hurts me. I can learn to read and write properly for the first time.”
The other girls, who have been through similar ordeals, have been friendly to her, and already she’s learning to trust the people around her. The staff says that she has a strong determination to leave her past life, including her drug addiction, well behind. This is helping her to settle in quickly, make friends and plan for her future.
“The first thing I will do when I leave here is look for my mother, my brothers and my sisters,” says Sophea. “I miss them. I want to learn hairdressing because I think I could earn money with that when I go home.”
Away from the situation, she can see more clearly how she was tricked and how many people must have known along the way, including the owners of the guesthouses where she was abused. She thinks it may not have been the first time her trafficker had taken this path with a young victim.
To other Cambodian girls she gives the advice “Do not fall into such a trick, believing people you don’t really know.”
But she refuses to release her last glimmer of trust. "My fiance can't have known about this, or he would have come to get me," she says sadly.
Katie Chalk is a reporter with World Vision, which has financially assisted Rapha House in special projects.