In Cambodia, there is an old adage: “Women are like cloth and men are like gold,” meaning that once cloth is soiled it cannot be cleaned and should be thrown away. This chauvinistic attitude still hovers oppressively over the hopes and dreams of an entire nation’s female population. Perhaps the most common consequence of this toxic ideology is domestic violence, afflicting approximately 1 in 4 women, the vast majority of whom have nowhere to turn for help.
Women are perceived as commodities in this culture, and not all commodities are equal. Sex with young women and girls is believed to boost virility and health, placing the most vulnerable first in line for mistreatment at the hands of traffickers, neighbors, teachers, brothers and fathers. A young survivor of rape often finds her trauma compounded by the actions of her family. Virginity is highly prized in a bride, and parents will sometimes resolve the problem of an unchaste, unmarried daughter by demanding that the girl’s rapist marry her.
The counseling and reintegration project supported by Lotus Outreach provides a safe haven for survivors of violence. Guaranteed physical protection and emotional support provide patients the sanctuary they needed for recovery. At our shelter in Sisophon, near the Thai border, they are welcome to stay for up to one year, during which time they have access to individual and group counseling, literacy courses, vocational training, life skills classes, legal services and reintegration assistance. Women are encouraged to retake control of their lives –– to shed their sense of shame and see themselves as survivors rather than victims.
Partner: Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center
Supported by: Dining for Women • GlobalGiving Foundation• Lotus Outreach United Kingdom• Lotus Outreach Society Canada