Cambodian Women's Crisis Center: Supporting Victims of Violence

Cambodian mother and child.  Photo: Jim CowanIn 2003, S.S.B., a 12-year-old girl from the Siem Reap Province of Cambodia, was raped by her 24-year-old uncle, who was living in the same house with her. During the next two years, S.S.B. was raped four more times by her uncle, and she was threatened and beaten whenever he thought she would tell others.

S.S.B found strength to escape the abuse in July 2005, when her uncle tried to rape her again. Her family found her and took her to the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center for help. At the Crisis Center, S.S.B. was first taken to the office, where staff assisted her with the legal procedure and accompanied her to the police station, hospital, and court for further investigation. During the months of legal proceedings, S.S.B. stayed at one of the Crisis Center’s shelters, where she participated in daily counseling sessions.

S.S.B.’s story is not unique in Cambodia, where as many as 40% of women have been victims of domestic or sexual violence. Many more cases go unreported as women are either unsure of how to report the abuse or afraid to do so.

Since its opening in 1997 by a small group of women concerned with the high incidence of violence in Cambodia, The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center has helped thousands of women who were victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or trafficking. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, provides support for the Center and its mission. At the Center, women receive assistance with their legal process, and they become residents at one of the Crisis Center’s three shelters – Phnom Penh, Banteay Mean Chey, and Siem Reap – during the proceedings. Usually, victims will stay at the center for 6 months to 1 year or for the duration of their legal process.

While at the shelters, women receive assistance to further all aspects of their development including counseling services, literacy education, and vocational skills training in subjects that include cooking, sewing, and even building a small business.Peer educator.  Photo: Jim Cowan

Vocational skills training is an important component of the recovery process. “The girls suffering from trafficking mainly have low education and no skills,” says Sophanara Pen, Communications Associate, UNFPA. Therefore, providing training skills such as sewing, cooking, and weaving skills contribute to improving their living standard once they are reintegrated into their community. They can regain the respect and social status in their community which makes them feel more secure and safe.”

S.S.B. spent six months at the Crisis Center before her uncle was charged with 20 terms of imprisonment in January 2006. Because of the assistance she received, S.S.B. safely re-entered her community and was accepted for re-enrollment at her school.

Joie LeMaitre recently visited the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center through an Americans for UNFPA Donor Delegation trip to Cambodia in January 2007. She was so impressed with the Center that she donated $3,000 to support its work.

“The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center is an example of strong, committed women helping their more ‘vulnerable’ sisters,” says Ms. LeMaitre. “Through skill building and education, they ensure hope for a better future for the women and children they serve.”

Americans for UNFPA would like to match Ms. LeMaitre’s generous contribution to the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center. To help us raise an additional $3,000 to assist victims of violence in Cambodia, please click HERE to make a donation.