15-year-old Cambodian girl rescued from forced marriage

To 15-year-old Phallen’s* dad, the chance to send his daughter to marry a rich businessman in China was a pathway leading her to safer and happier times.

Life was far from easy for Phallen, who had lost her mum when she was much younger, and whose dad was a very poor fisherman struggling to provide for his family. So together with Phallen’s step-mum, he agreed to send her away from Cambodia.

But Phallen’s new life was far from what she had been promised. She was forced to marry a man who was older than her father, and as a pig farmer, had only slightly more money. He “bought” Phallen to make sure he had someone to look after him and his farm.

Phallen’s new husband raped her and beat her. She could turn to no-one for help, as she spoke no Chinese, and had no means of contacting anyone. Her passport had been taken away from her, and she had no other form of ID. She spent a whole year feeling terrified and miserable.

But little by little, Phallen picked up some of the language. And one day, when her husband sent her to the town on an errand, she bravely took the chance to start her journey to freedom.

Phallen found the police station, and was put in touch with the Cambodian embassy, which helped her return to Cambodia. She was taken in at our local Lighthouse, and spent several months being cared for and supported by our highly trained staff. She was offered individual and group counselling, as well as catch-up education classes. Phallen slowly recovered from her ordeal, and regained her physical and mental strength.

Returning home was not an option for Phallen, as her own family had trafficked her. So our team offered her the opportunity to take part in our Stepping Stone project, which provides older children who have been trafficked the skills and confidence they need to look after themselves, find safe work and live independently.

One of our team suggested baking and decorating cakes as Phallen’s new vocation, and supported her through her training at a local bakery and café, where she was subsequently offered a job earlier this year.

Thanks to the unwavering support and expertise of our team, Phallen has now transformed her life. She is enjoying working in an environment where she is well respected and liked, and is living in the community.

Phallen said: “Thanks so much to Hope for Justice for helping me see I can still have a good future after my terrible experiences. Now I have an independent life for myself and can see a bright future!”

*Name changed to protect survivor’s identity