Cambodia was renowned as a sex tourism destination in the 1990s and this legacy is still prevalent today with women and girls trafficked within the thriving sex industry in Cambodia's major cities. Despite significant attempts to curb CSE, NGOs report the industry has been pushed underground and sex offenders are still able to purchase sex with children through an intermediary rather than more overt selling of sex in brothels. Boys and young men are also vulnerable to sexual exploitation, with many entering the massage industry due to a lack of training and skills. Bella was sold into sex slavery by a woman she met who recruited her for domestic work. Her story demonstrates the ways in which survivors can be supported by organisations to gain self-confidence and education, in order to avoid returning to situations of slavery.
My name is Bella and I'm 21 years old. I was born in Phnom Penh, and when I was young one lady she tricked me. She said that "go there" to her house, I just go to clean her house, or prepare her clothes, something like that, and then after she fit me like one or two months, she sell me.
When I was twelve years old I have been work - like trafficking - they forced me to go to have sex with guys, and I always don't want to go. And she always hits me, and blame me. I work there about one month and I really hurt, like I want to go away from the place, but I cannot go. She sends me there, to the house, and then have the guy come in, like, a day maybe five. They pay like $20 and then he do something bad to me. I say no and cry, and I said, "please let me go." She told me that if I escape from her place she will do something to my family. I feel like I hopeless, I have nothing, no one care about me, and no one thinks I'm special. And my future, I will think - I will die one day and if I still work like that I will get disease and I will die. Nothing.
And then, have two foreigners, they called me and two friends and go to the hotel. And they said they want to have sex, like that. Then, at that time I feel like happy, I don't know why, but I feel different. Then we went to the hotel, and then we sit, and we're waiting. And then, have two foreigner guys, and they come and talk with us and ask us about our life. And then we told them and then they ask me and my friend "do you want to leave the place that you stay?" We said, "Yes, we want" and then, after that, the police come, and they save us. Then I went to Agape. So I come to live there about four years and they give me a lot of opportunities. They love me a lot and they show me they all come to partake in my life. They let me go to school, education, do what I want to do in the future. They always give me advice and they always encourage me that I am special. especially Don, he always said that I'm special, but before I could not get it, because I think that I'm not special, but he always say it and now I know I'm special. I think God will use me to help other girls that have been trafficked and I know that hurt and I know they don't want. So I know God will use me to save them and to tell them that God can help them and loves them. And tell them that they are special. And if they become in Jesus they will be saved and will have more love.
As told to Project 77