Sunday, August 31, 2008

When She Said “No” to a Man

Fourteen-year-old Sophea learned what would happen when she said “no” to a man. She found out in a roadhouse along the road to Siem Reap. She was on her way to what she thought was a waitressing job. And she and her traveling companion—the female broker whom promised her the job—stopped to rest for the night. But there would be no rest for Sophea that night.

A man came into her room wanting sex. When she resisted, he raped her. Then another man came. Again, she resisted, but this man brutally beat her and then raped her. Sophea learned the hard way that saying “no” to men is dangerous.

The broker reassured Sophea not to worry; the men had paid for the sex. But Sophea never saw any of the money. And when she got to Siem Reap, she found that there wasn’t any waitressing job awaiting her. Instead, she was sold to a brothel where saying “no” to men could be deadly. Her customers and pimps would not tolerate it.

At Rapha House, I invited Sophea to attend a week-long training session for a select group of girls that we are preparing to serve as peer counselors. Sophea came to a couple sessions and then dropped out.

When I saw her next, she shied away from me. She didn’t know what to expect from saying “no” to another man. She wasn’t prepared for what happened next. I gave her a hug and told her that I loved her. I reassured her that I respected her “no.”

I don’t know what will happen with our peer counselor program. And I don’t know what will happen with Sophea. But I like to think that the most significant lesson she learned from this whole experience is that she can say “no” to a man and her “no” will be respected. Nothing Sophea could have learned from the training was more important than that.

Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. (Psalm 6:4)