"I felt like a wilted flower, or a dead butterfly" she said. In the brothel, Q. was expected to provide sexual services for up to nine men every day. This went on for six months until Q. was rescued by International Justice Mission (IJM). After assessing her needs, she was transferred to Hagar Aftercare.
It's now been more than two years since Q. arrived at Hagar.Â She feels secure and accepted by her friends and by Hagar's loving staff. Q. loves school and soaks up everything she learns.Â Dedicated to her studies, she has often been seen studying by candlelight during Phnom Penh's power outages.
"Q. is a top student," her teacher said. "This is amazing progress for someone who has had no schooling up until she came to Aftercare."
Sometimes Qujen still feels afraid, but she is a brave. During court proceedings, she testified, standing only meters away from the two traffickers accused of negotiating her sale. Q. is also very compassionate. As she stood in court, she noticed the five year old son of one of the accused.
"I feel sorry for him," she later told her counselor. "Now he has no one to care for him."
Q. also wants to help her mother, who is HIV positive. She has seen her only once since she was rescued.
A Tragic Life Restored
S.'s story is one of tragedy, but not without hope.Â S.'s father died when she was 10, making her vulnerable in her community.Â She was raped shortly after.Â By the time she was a teenager, she had been trafficked through two brothels and then freed in a raid by the police, only to be sexually abused while working in a karaoke shop shortly afterwards.
S. was eager for stability, so when a rich man professed his love for her and her promised marriage S. went to live with him.Â S. didn't know he was already married as she lived like his wife in his home.Â Â Â
When S. became pregnant, the man's first wife found out.Â Enraged, she threw acid on S.Â The acid burned her eyes, completely blinding her.Â
S. also lost her baby.
After receiving medical treatment, the Acid Association in Cambodia brought S. to Phnom Penh to stay at the Acid Survivor's office.Â There she met a man who was also an acid attack survivor and they fell in love.Â The Association brought her to live at Hagar in early 2007.Â
Once again, S. discovered she was pregnant.Â She was terrified to have a child with her physical condition.Â She wanted to abort the baby.Â Hagar counselors encouraged and guided her through this difficult time and after several months of medical treatment, counseling, and constant love and support, S. decided to keep her baby and began to come out of her depression.
S. is now 25 years old with a healthy baby.Â She sews bag - beautifully intricate hand bags that she sells for $10 each.Â She has also learned massage and has the option to work for a massage business that employs the blind.Â
"My life is much better now.Â I can make bags as good as people who can see.Â When my baby is older I can make two bags each day."
In April 2008, Hagar reintegrated S. to the province; helping her build a small house and other needs so that S. can start her business making and selling bags.
S. has hopes and dreams for the future - including a successful business, a home of her own and education for her child.Â Hagar will follow up with S. for two years to ensure she is settled and successful in her new home.Â
Precious Life Restored
E. was only six years old when her mother sold her into prostitution. Now, E. is healing at Hagar.
E. was only six years old when her mother sold her into prostitution to make extra money for the family.Â After E.'s father died of AIDS, leaving her mother to provide for her children and elderly grandmother alone, her meager income from her clothes-washing business was simply not enough to provide for the family.Â So she turned to the one job she knew would provide quick money - prostitution.Â
At the tender age of 6, a foreign customer paid E.'s mother a high price for E.'s virginity.Â That was the beginning of E.'s nightmare - rape became an almost daily occurrence. Some days she would see two or three men; other days none at all. Â E. brought a lot of money into her family because men would pay her mother a high price because she was so young.
E. never questioned her mother or refused her requests.Â She believed she was working to help her family.Â In between customers she would return home and pretend that life was normal, occasionally attending school and playing with other children.Â
E.'s nightmare continued for five long years.Â But the worst of it ended one night when Cambodian police, after investigating and watching a foreigner at his guesthouse, rescued E. and brought her to Hagar's Aftercare program.Â
There, with plenty of food, schooling and friends to play with, E. began the long journey towards healing.Â She met other girls with similar stories and learned that what she had endured was not a necessary way of life. E. was surprised to discover that her Vietnamese counselor listened to her story and responded with empathy.
E.'s path to healing is a long one.Â She still feels guilt that she is not helping her family and shifts between and cheerful and confident girl and an angry and anxious girl.Â Her counselors, however, continue to encourage her by helping her tell her story, heal from the trauma, and build hopes for a future with new opportunities.