FROM CHRISTA: I eagerly volunteered to participate in this blog tour because Somaly Mam’s story needs to be told. But reading her story has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. Buckets of live maggots dumped on her body and in her mouth, days of brutal beatings, violent rapes, burning with electrodes, tied in a dark room full of snakes. . .I couldn’t endure–in the comfort of my safe home, sitting near my loving husband–simply reading about the hellish life she lived. Physical and psychological torture beyond human comprehension, but delivered by those who dare consider themselves human, from 1986-2001.
Courageous is too puny a word to describe this incredible woman. On the cover of her book, she is surrounded by laughing children. She is laughing…eyes closed, wide-mouthed, shiny-faced beautiful.
I am humbled by her fierce determination to not only save herself, but to endure facing the evil so that others may be saved. To date, over 4,000 women and children in Southeast Asia have been rescued from sexual slavery. That’s less than 10% of the number of prostitutes and sex slaves in Cambodia where at least one in forty girls will be sold into slavery (2005 report by Future Group). After reading her book, I looked at photographs of my three amazing daughters and my two precious granddaughters and, through my tears, I thanked God for their lives.
Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking – rape, torture, and deprivation – until she managed to escape with the help of a French aid worker. Emboldened by her newfound freedom, education, and security, Somaly blossomed but remained haunted by the girls in the brothels she
Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence recounts the experiences of her early life and tells the story of her awakening as an activist and her harrowing and brave fight against the powerful and corrupt forces that steal the lives of these girls.
She has orchestrated raids on brothels and rescued sex workers, some as young as five and six; she has built shelters, started schools, and founded an organization that has so far saved more than four thousand women and children in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
Her memoir will leave you awestruck by her tenacity and courage and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.The Somaly Mam Foundation activities for 2008-2009 take place in the United States and Southeast Asia with the intention to spread to other areas of the globe in 2010. The following are areas of focus:
Rescue and Rehabilitation
The Somaly Mam Foundation is proud to announce its 2008-2009 partner organization in rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration activities, Cambodia based AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Situations). AFESIP managers three shelters throughout Cambodia and over 250 children and young women in rehabilitation programs at any given time. The Somaly Mam Foundation grants money to help feed the shelter residents, support rescue operations, employ the newly reintegrated residents, and currently creating a child care center for the babies and young children of the victims.
Voices for Change
Through various forms of media and strategic partnerships, the Voices for Change Campaign will share the stories, thoughts, and opinions of former slaves. The campaign will help educate the public about modern day slavery and help them understand the intricacies of the issue on a personal level. It will also empower the victims as they have the opportunity to be heard and to develop a leaders in this fight against slavery.
The advocacy campaign aims to globally decrease demand for child sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. One of the ways it seeks to accomplish this is by pressuring governments to enact or amend legislation to address the issue more effectively and to allocate more resources towards enforcement of laws designed to
combat child exploitation. The campaign aims to increase deterrence, make it more difficult and costly for perpetrators to sexually abuse children, increase the likelihood of catching perpetrators, and make prosecution faster, easier, and more efficient.
Global Awareness Campaign
The Somaly Mam Foundation is dedicated to raising global awareness through the news, media and entertainment, celebrity voices, speaking engagements, encouraging university and high school involvement, internet communities, and other forms of communication.
In the United States the awareness campaign is focused around education and calling people to action. In Southeast Asia, our awareness campaign aims to educate the public on current and recently passed human trafficking laws, consequences of contributing to the illegal criminal industry, and how to identify and report suspicious activity.