Imagine with me…

(Just a quick warning… this is disturbing. The reason I write it is to show that scenes like these are repeated every single day with minor variations all over the world. This is why I’m an abolitionist. This is why I want to give my time, energy and money to ending child sex trafficking.)

Imagine with me that you are an 8 year old girl living in a rural village in Cambodia. Your parents are subsistence farmers. They make enough for food, but there is very little extra money for medicine or clothes. To make matters worse, your father has a gambling habit. He drinks too much and then bets money he doesn’t have. As a result, your family is deeply in debt.

You don’t know anything about the gambling or the debt. You know that you love your parents and your little brother and sister. You like jumping rope and picking mangos and avocados off the trees near your house. You try to be a good helper by watching your younger siblings while your parents work in the fields.

One day a man on a moto comes to your house and sits down with your father. You’re outside chasing the chickens with your little brother. The hens are squawking and your little brother is giggling. You hear the man’s voice get loud and angry but you can’t hear what they’re talking about. Shortly after, your father and the man come outside. The man looks at you strangely. Your father looks worried, with stooped shoulders and deep frown lines on his brow. You realize your mother is not home. She has walked off to the market to sell eggs.

Your father takes your hand and kneels down beside you. He tells you that this man is your uncle and that you are going to live with him in the city. Don’t worry, your father tells you. He will take good care of you.

Your stomach begins to hurt and you quietly tell your father that you want to stay home. I have to help with Sopha and Bunthan, you say. But your father pats you on the head and tells you to go and get your things.

You don’t have much, just two ragged t-shirts, one pair of shorts, and a small stuffed monkey. You shove them into a plastic sack your father hands you. Your father is smiling now and telling you how lucky you are to be going on an adventure to the city. Something in his voice sounds hollow. You wish your mother were here. You don’t think she would like the man on the moto. Your little brother and sister have run off to play so you don’t get to say goodbye to them.

The man takes you roughly by the hand and leads you to his moto. You climb on behind him, clutching him around the waist. He takes off down the road and, you don’t understand it yet, but you’ve been sold to pay your father’s gambling debt.

The roads are dirt for a while, lined with palm trees and emerald green fields. The roads turn to pavement as you get closer to Phnom Penh. After a hot, dusty ride, you arrive at a building in the city. Here you are sold again, this time to a man who looks you over and smiles but has no light in his eyes.

The building is a bar with tables and a stage and posters of beautiful women on the wall. You’re taken to a back room with mattresses lying on the floor. Several older girls are lounging around. They barely look up at you. A woman tells you to sit down and hands you a bowl of rice. You can’t eat because of the pit in your stomach. You want to cry but are embarrassed to do it in front of the older girls. You wonder if your mother has come home yet. You don’t understand why your father sent you away. You think back to try and find what you did wrong.

The woman notices that you are not eating and she flies at you with a fury you have never seen, even when your father came home drunk and in a foul mood. She screams and demands that you eat, so you do. The rice mixes with tears and swells in your mouth so that you can barely swallow. The older girls say nothing.

For three days you’re in this room, fed rice twice a day and permitted to use the toilet. You wonder what is going on at home, if Sopha and Bunthan miss you and whether your mother is looking for you. You know that she must be, and as soon as she finds you she will take you away from here, back to your home and your village. For now you tell yourself to be strong, like the ox who pulls your father’s plow.

The older girls come and go. They sleep during the day, then change clothes and put on makeup to go out into the bar at night. You sit in the corner and wonder if any of them will speak to you or if you should work up the courage to speak to them. Finally a beautiful girl comes over and leans down toward you. You lift your face to hers, hoping she will tell you that your mother is coming. Instead she says, ‘The first time is bad but it gets easier.’ You don’t understand what she means. As she stands up, you see that she has a black eye barely concealed under her makeup.

You don’t know it, but for the past two nights a cell phone with a picture of you has been passed around to several foreign men at the bar. One is very interested. Negotiations are made and a price is settled upon. Your virginity has just been sold for $700 American dollars.

You are led to a new, smaller room with one bed. The foreign man comes in and the door is locked from the outside. You have never been this close to a barang before. His skin is white and he seems more like a ghost than a man to you. He is talking but you can’t understand him. His language sounds guttural and harsh. You are looking down at the floor, too terrified to look him in the eye. He grabs your chin and lifts your head to look at him. Perhaps he is a kind man, you think. You know he is not when he backhands you and sends you flying onto your back. The rest is utter terror and one searing pain after another until you mercifully pass out. When you come to, you don’t understand what has happened. All you know is that the pain is nearly unbearable. You have never seen so much of your own blood.

When it’s done he knocks on the door and is let out. He goes back to the bar and orders a beer and a meal. He is a wealthy man, wealthy enough to visit your country several times a year to get his fill of small girls like you. You were born poor in a poor country to a father with a gambling problem. Tonight was the first of many times that you’ll be raped. . .

If you were moved by this, please visit to find out how you can join the movement to end child sex trafficking.

One thought on “Imagine with me…

  1. jeverheart…thank you for sharing this story. It is so disturbing. My husband and I run a ministry helping communities and churches start safe houses for victims of human trafficking. It breaks my heart that this story represents the reality of so many young people around the world. It is time for us to do something about it!

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