Srey Neth was forced into prostitution in Cambodia at the age of just 14. After suffering horrific brutality at the hands of her pimp and customers, she was rescued and given a second chance at life by an organization that works with victims of sex trafficking. Her story is shocking, but also inspiring, as she talks about how she hopes to help other girls make the same journey from victim to survivor.
My name is Srey Neth. I am Cambodian. I am a victim of sex trafficking. I do not know my father. My brother, he gambled and left home. We were poor, and so my mother sold me to a neighbor, a pimp. I was 14. I lived in a place called "the building," where I served drinks for the first week. I didn't know; I thought I had a job to help my family, but the other girls told me things. Later, the pimp sold my virginity for USD$300. I lost my choice. I lost my voice. I lost myself.
I was worth nothing to them but money. Some nights, I was sent out with one or two customers. Some nights, he kept me in, where I saw 10, 20 customers. When I didn't want to have sex, they beat me. Sometimes, they electrocuted me. I could have run, but I was afraid, and my mother had made a contract. I am a good daughter. I do not want to hurt my mother.
Then, there was a man, a foreigner. He took me in his car to the forest. He was drunk, and he did things to me that hurt badly. Then one night, I was taken to a hotel to see another customer, but it was the police and a non-government organization. I was very afraid. I thought they would make me work more, but instead they took me to a shelter. I was safe. I could not leave, but no one could hurt me there.
And then I found out I have HIV. One of the men, he gave it to me. For many, especially in Cambodia, HIV means death. But for me, I am lucky. At the center, I have a second father and a second mother. James, he made sure I have healthcare and antiretroviral drugs. He gave me a chance at life. Siya held my hand and showed me how to live again. She took me to the pagoda and told me the stories of Buddha. She told me the stories of the time of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, when she worked the rice fields for 18 hours every day, and many died. She showed me how to forgive and how to love, first myself, and then others.
I live with other girls who have stories just like me. I know the other girls are afraid. They are angry. I know they feel that there is only one thing left for them, and I know, late at night, they hurt just like I did. But like TCI [Transitions Global] gave to me, so will I give back to them. I want to help the others, to protect them from the pimps and the brothels. I am Srey Neth. I am a survivor. It has been five years, but I have found my home. I have found my voice, and I am finding myself.