Before Sreypich Loch even turned 10-years-old she was forced into a life of darkness and fear. Now, nearly ten years later at age 20, Sreypich looks back on her life as a slave in a Cambodian brothel and feels indescribably free.
When she was 7-years-old, Sreypich’s step-father raped her, threatening to kill her if she told anyone. Later that same year, she was raped by a complete stranger who made the same death threats. She opted for silence, fearing that her death would surely result if she sought help. When she finally found the courage to tell someone, her mother, the reaction she received was both discouraging and life-changing. She fled from her home and that is when they captured her; a gang of five men raped her right where they found her – on the street. Sreypich thought she would be saved when a women arrived offering her shelter. But instead, the woman took her to a brothel where the child was forced to sleep with countless men every day. She recalls very little about her time there, only that “I couldn’t see light, just dark.”
Eventually, she saw the light. One day when she was taken from the brothel to a man’s home, Sreypich saw her opportunity and escaped from an open window. Police authorities found her in the street and took her to trafficking officials who directed her to the Somaly Mam Foundation. The Foundation is run by a former sex slave who established shelters across Cambodia. Even though authorities never prosecuted Sreypich’s captors, she had finally reached safety.
The U.S. State Department recognizes the pervasive enslavement that occurs in Cambodia, but notes that individual reports of capture and forced servitude are difficult to verify, respond to, and prevent. In its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department stated that, “The sale of virgin girls continues to be a serious problem in Cambodia…Cambodian men form the largest source of demand for child prostitution, though a significant number of men from the United States and Europe, as well as other Asian countries, travel to Cambodia to engage in child sex tourism.” Their actions, it seems, are motivated by myths that sex with virgins brings good luck and health. Cambodia has yet to fully comply with the suggested standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Today, Sreypich joins her rescue team in saving other helpless girls who, like her, were afraid to refuse sex for fear of being starved to death or shocked with electric cords. She was invited to share her story on a commercial radio station in Phnom Penh. The show received widespread attention and even initiated reports of suspicious activity concerning the slavery of minors. Since then, Sreypich launched her own show where she interviews lawyers, legislators, and fellow escapees from the sex trade. She hopes that after hearing the voice of a survivor, the rest of the world will be made painfully aware of slavery’s shameful existence. Sreypich’s story is not the only tragedy to be told. Her efforts are aimed at preventing the spread of this damaging industry while providing a voice to other survivors who remained silent for far too long.