Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sophea’s Journey Through Hell (1)

As a young teen, Sophea’s first experience with sex was not with someone whom she thought she loved. A total stranger in a dirty guesthouse on the road to Siem Reap, the tourist mecca of Cambodia, raped her. When he was done, a second man raped her and brutally beat her when she tried to resist. This was fourteen-year-old Sophea’s introduction to sex.

After this ordeal, the woman who had lured Sophea from her home with the promise of a legitimate job told Sophea not to worry. She said the men paid for the experience. Sophea, however, never saw any of the money and ended up being sold to a brothel where she spent eight months in a living hell.

How did an innocent girl end up in a place like this? It all started with a single incident of domestic violence.

One day when Sophea was in the third grade, her grandfather and mother got into an argument. After being hit, Sophea’s mom ran away to the Thai border, leaving her family behind.

Sometimes it’s hard growing up in a fractured family in the most prosperous country on earth. But growing up destitute and in a broken family in one of the poorest nations on earth can drive people to make desperate decisions.

In order to help her family make ends meet, Sophea took a job as a laborer at a sugarcane farm in Thailand. The adults mistreated her, calling her lazy and blaming her for everything that went wrong. She needed whatever money she could get but wanted desperately to escape this oppressive situation. One day a man came along speaking her native tongue. He invited Sophea to come to work in Bangkok. She trusted him and went. There she spent the next year working as a laborer and receiving nothing in return. So she called her grandma and asked to come home.

Sometime later after returning home, a woman came through her hometown telling about a restaurant in Siem Reap that was hiring responsible girls to wait on tables. The pay was sixty dollars a month. Sophea left with her grandmother’s blessing. And on the way, she found herself at the guesthouse where she was raped and then was sold to the brothel.

Next installment: Sophea escapes to freedom

O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death —Psalm 9:13