The Battambang police transferred a file to SISHA’s aftercare and legal teams regarding the tragic gang rape of two 14-year-old girls. The police investigation led to the arrest of three of the six male suspects. Three are still at large; SISHA and the Police are actively trying to bring them to justice.
The tragic incident occurred in an empty field of a remote village of the Battambang Province in early 2010. Chantha and Ravy*, the two victims, say their new friend Dara* had invited them to meet with him, but the two girls were far from knowing what he had in mind.
Dara had also invited other friends of his, 5 young men between the ages of 18 and 23. These young men were much older, and much bigger than the two girls. Before they could even realize they were in danger, Chantha and Ravy say they were forcibly taken to an empty field where they were raped numerous times. To ensure the girls would not fight back, one of the boys threatened to kill Ravy the moment they stopped doing what they were told.
At first the girls could not believe what was happening to them; they were terribly scared. When that horrible moment that seemed like an eternity finally ended, Chantha and Ravy say they were left alone in a dark and desert field. The boys had gotten what they came for, and left them there.
Later, Chantha and Ravy relayed the events to Ravy’s mother who went to the police. Desirous of offering the best services to victims, the police asked for SISHA’s assistance for legal and aftercare matters.
SISHA’s aftercare and legal team consulted the victims in order to locate the most appropriate resources to help them overcome their trauma. Chantha and Ravy both developed memory loss and confusion as consequences of their trauma which rendered the investigation and judicial proceedings extremely difficult for them and those trying to help them.
Memory loss and confusion are very common consequences found in people who experienced traumatic events. The girls claim to be certain about Dara and his friend Roth* raping them, but were unsure of what the others did. During the interview, the girls struggled to relive the event they wanted so hard to forget.
Despite the support of SISHA’s legal team and representation from a pro-bono lawyer from Action Aid, the trial was extremely difficult and terrifying for the two girls. Chantha and Ravy appeared confused when asked questions by the judge and defense attorney. Everyone expected them to have precise and concrete answers about an event that was still extremely painful for them to process. Yet Chantha and Ravy were brave enough to complete their testimonies.
Their bravery paid off when five of the six men were sentenced to jail. Dara, who was a minor at the time, received a 5-year sentence, Roth received an 8-year sentence in absentia, and three others received 7-year sentences for aiding-and-abetting. The sixth young man remains unidentified, Chantha and Ravy had never seen him before and his friends are not cooperating. Roth is still at large, but will be brought to jail the moment he is located. As proof of their lack of remorse, all three arrested men plead not-guilty and never even hinted at the possibility of cooperating with police.
Chantha and Ravy were offered after-care services by SISHA to help them deal with their trauma. SISHA is active in the search to locate the remaining perpetrators and hopes to bring them to justice. SISHA is currently involved in many other cases of sexual violence, some of which were committed against children.
Rape in Cambodia – A Crime that is not treated as a Crime
Reports of rape in newspapers and other media sources are becoming increasingly common in Cambodia. This is not surprising considering that rates of sexual violence have increased drastically in the last two years. Yet despite the shocking prevalence of this crime, many Cambodians still do not consider rape to be a crime and often blame the victims rather than the perpetrators.
There is a Cambodian saying that translates into: “men are like gold and women like white cloth”. It implies that once a woman is “tainted” she can never be made clean again, while men see their worth unaffected regardless of what they do, or what is done to them. This saying summarizes what is happening in Cambodia regarding sexual violence. If it’s still unbelievable for you, take a look at this article.
A report by Amnesty International on Sexual Violence in Cambodia (Breaking the Silence: Sexual Violence in Cambodia) revealed that attitudes toward rape, even child rape, were often averse to victims and indifferent to perpetrators.
Victims of rape, most of them women and children, are highly stigmatized by their families and communities. Many keep the matter a secret for fear of rejection. They report destructive feelings of shame and loneliness, constant fear, and sometimes even suicidal ideations. In some cases, women are asked to divorce their husbands to spare the family of her shameful ‘taint’. Children can be disowned and left to fend for themselves which only places them at further risk of abuse and even exploitation.
In contrast, rapists and sexual assailants see their status in the community unchanged. In an interview with Amnesty International, a convicted child rapist explained that he did not feel looked down upon either in his village or in the prison where he served his sentence because “so many here have done bad things”. Evidently, raping two little girls from your home village is not enough to bring reprimand. Gold washes clean, no matter what.
In Cambodia, the corruption in law enforcement is such, that victims who cannot afford hefty bribes see their perpetrators go unpunished. In addition, effects of human trafficking on victims are often made to pay for medical and psychosocial care offered by professionals who are not properly trained to deal with such sensitive issues. The lack of specialized services provided to victims is clearly a major barrier in the pursuit of justice.
SISHA works tirelessly to investigate cases of rape and train police officers on how to deal with these casesprofessionally. SISHA also provides aftercare services to victims, which ensures that the psychological needs of victims are being met.
SISHA is currently raising funds to establish a Crisis Center in the Battambang Province. Currently there are no specialized centers for gender-based violence which means victims must go to hospitals where the staff is often very judgmental of victims. In this center, SISHA will be training local staff to international standards enabling Cambodians to help other Cambodians. Victims will receive professional services, ranging from forensic examinations, to medical care, to trauma counseling and psychosocial care in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. Do the right thing, click here to Report Sexual Abuse Crimes.