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Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Road to Lost Innocence

So I just finished my first week of school, and despite problems with financial aide and my lack of books, I think it went pretty well.

There's a lot to do and its a little overwhelming, but in a good way. Im working toward a goal and Im such a nerd that I actually enjoy my classes. I forgot how much I love psychology.

I'm having to repeat some classes since the first time around I didn't take it as seriously as I should have, (let this be a lesson!) so Im taking freshman English, which I kinda find ironic.

We're reading this book called "The Road to Lost Innocence," by Somaly Mam. The book is a autobiographical account of her life in Cambodia. I can't tell you how much this book affected me.

Somaly Mam is the name this woman picked for herself. She can't remember the name she was born with or her biological parents. For a long time she was an orphan living off help from the village she lived in until a man came and took her in. He in turn sold her into prostitution to pay off his debts.

I can turn to any page and find a quote that leaves me horrified. The world she describes is so very different from where I live, it almost doesn't seem real. It would be easier if it weren't.

"Ideally in Cambodia, a woman walks so quietly you can't hear her footsteps. She smiles without showing her teeth and laughs softly. She never looks directly into the eyes of any man. A woman must not talk back to her husband. She must not turn her back to him in bed. She must bow before she touches his head, and if she walks over his legs she will become ill. In Cambodia, you must respect and care for your parents, and your husband is your master-second only to your father."

It was bad enough that this was the life she led before the prostitution, but what is even more horrifying is the fact that this is a common practice. Parents and gradnparents who find themselves in debt will use their daughters to pay off their debts. "I can truly say that I think that for many parents, feelings have nothing to do with it. Their children are money on legs, an asset, a kind of domestic livestock."

As if being raped repeatedly by dozens of different men on a daily basis wasn't bad enough sometimes the clients tortured the girls for their own pleasure, beating them and cutting them. If the girls showed any insubordination, they were punished.

"I think that was when Li discovered something I was really afraid of. He was scientific about punishment; he wanted us compleltey cowed. He must have realized I wasn't terrorized by the basement room, because when I was taken down there I didn;t scream helplessly like the other girls. I just glared at guards and thought about how one day I would kill them. I always tried not to show pain, because I didn't want to give them the pleasure.

But one night Li dumped a bucket of live maggots on me. Hideous maggots, like the ones on meat. When he realized how much they frightened me, he began dumping them into my mouth and on my body while I was sleeping. I thought they would make their way inside me, into my body. That's what I have nightmares about, even now."

In cambodia, young girls sell oranges in the park. For the price of an orange a man can do whatever he wishes to girls as young as six years old. Men in Cambodia pay a lot of money for virgins. They believe that having sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS.

Today, Somaly Mam runs a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending sexual slavery and giving victims a chance at a new life. She takes social workers and police into the brothels and rescues the victims. She provides shelter for the victims she rescues and teaches them a trade so that they don't have to find themselves in brothels again. She speaks to men in cambodia about the effects of prostitution and what the brothels are really like. English is her fourth language. She has received the World Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child, in Sweden, the Roland Berger Award for Human Dignity in Germany, and in Washington D.C. she was honored at the Vital Voices 2009 global leadership Awards.

At first she didn't do anything but speak up, and pass out a few condoms. She has been threatened with death. She's had a gun to her head. Her own daughter was kidnapped by one of the brother owners and was missing for 3 days. They wanted her to stop talking.

I feel helpless, the situation is bigger than me. but I can speak up.

Today, I urge you to look around you. You have a home, your children are protected. You married a man of your choosing. Today I urge you to forget the little things, the bills you can't pay, the arguement that you had last night. Forget the rude words of your mothers, your fathers, your brothers and sisters, and be thankful. Thankful that we may not have money today, but we have a job. We have hope. Thankful that even in arguements we have a voice. And no matter what relationship we have with our parents, in most cases, they wouldn't sell us into slavery for the price of a US quarter.

Wives make love to your husbands. Relish the fact that for us, sex is a beautiful thing, an expression of our deeper feelings, an expression of our love for one another, and an expression of ourselves.

If you'd like to know more about Somaly Mam, you can check out her website www.somaly.org. or come see her when she speaks at WTAMU on Thurdsay, October 7, at 5 pm at the first United Bank Center in Canyon.