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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam

Two days ago I read a heart-wrenching book that my daughter insisted I should read. As a pediatrician and neonatologist, she’s very dedicated to children’s welfare and was revolted by the situation exposed in The Road of Lost Innocence— a riveting and beautiful memoir of tragedy and hope.

Somaly Mam lost her parents at a young age in a village deep in the Cambodian forest. Somaly means: the necklace of flowers lost in the virgin forest. Having no idea of what her name was or her age, the little girl grew up in war torn Cambodia as an ethnic minority. Because of her darker skin, she was taunted and reviled by people. Her grandmother wandered away from the village, never to return.

At the age of five, Somaly is left totally at the mercy of her wits. She eats where she can among families in the village and supplements her slim pickings with nuts, berries, ants and grasshoppers that she finds in the surrounding woods.

When she was about nine, a man claims to be her grandfather and takes her away. He treats her as an indentured servant and forces her to do his cooking and cleaning, and backbreaking work for other families in the village- hauling water and working in the rice fields to earn money to support him. The grandfather sells her virginity to a store owner who brutally rapes her. Later when she is twelve, the old man sells her into sexual slavery in order to pay off his debts.

Her life turns into a hellish nightmare as she is shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. For the next decade, she suffers horrendous rapes and unspeakable acts of brutality, and witnesses horrors that would haunt her for the rest of her life. When her closest friend is murdered in front of her, she finds a way to do the impossible and escapes her captors.

When Cambodia opens up to tourism, aid workers from Europe and the U.S. arrive in big numbers. Somaly, now in her early twenties, meets wealthier patrons who are able to provide her with some stepping stones out of sexual slavery.

Unable to forget the girls she left behind, Somaly becomes a tenacious and brave leader in the fight against human trafficking. Using the little money available to her she founds AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances) and dedicates her life to rescuing sex slaves–some as young as five and six–offering them shelter, rehabilitation, healing, and love and leading them into new life.

Somaly sees herself in each of the girls she encounters and while she can’t forget her pain or what she endured, she wants the girls to not feel ashamed of themselves and she teaches them how to make better lives for themselves.

Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence is a memoir that will leave you awestruck by the courage and strength of this extraordinary woman and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.

Somaly Mam is now a renowned leader at the forefront of the anti-trafficking struggle. Universally recognized as a visionary for her courage, dignity, ingenuity, and resilience, Somaly was honored as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009 and was featured as a CNN Hero. She is also the recipient of the Prince of Austria’s Award for International Cooperation, The World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC), Glamour Magazine’s 2006 Woman of the Year Award, and has won accolades from the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Somaly Mam Foundation is a charitable organization committed to ending human trafficking in North American and around the world. DO NOT, for one minute, think that this is a problem that only happens “over there.” Over two million women and girls as young as five and six are sold into slavery every year–and the business is growing because many Asian and African men affected by AIDS believe that intercourse with a little virgin can cure them.

The Somaly Mam Foundations works many paths: rescue and recovery, education, reintegration, voices for change, advocacy, and global awareness.

You can get involved from home and in the field. Make the buck stop here, and stand for the vision of the Somaly Mam Foundation and its heroic founder: A world where women and children are safe from slavery.

Somaly Mam: "I’ve saved 6000 girls, but I can’t do it alone. We are fighting organized crime. We need a political commitment to help. But it is a victory when I see girls take off their makeup and become children again. They go to school. Some are even going to college.

Each contribution means everything to the victims. Know that I will be forever grateful for those who help make such an important difference."

https://www.somaly.org/donate/make-a-donation

Susan Sarandon: "Please give unselfishly to this vital cause and take great pleasure in knowing that there is no more important mission that helping the victims forge a new life."

Every mother or grandmother, every reader or writer, every woman with a good heart can make a difference. Read the book and follow your heart.

19 comments:

Maeve said...

What a brave young woman. Thank you for sharing this with us, Mona.

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

This kind of thing has been going on forever, and it's accepted behavior in some cultures. Shame on grown men who take advantage of children like this.

Joanne Stewart said...

Very touching post. thank you for sharing that.

Celia Yeary said...

It's very difficult to read or hear about this sort of thing.I feel very sorry for what this young lady went through--and I applaud her with all my heart.
Celia

Josie said...

This is a beautiful and heart-wrenching story. Thanks, Mona, for sharing.

Mona Risk said...

This woman is even braver than I reported in my blog. In 2006, they kidnapped her 14 year old daughter to scare her away. She found the girl after four horrendous days and very VIP intervention. And yet she continues her mission.

Mary Ricksen said...

WOW! That is horrible. And I'm afraid of all the other horrors that we never hear of!
Humans can be just awful...

StephB said...

A very brave young woman indeed. I'm glad she was able to rise above and provide inspiration and hope for those in similiar situations. Thanks for sharing, Mona.

Smiles
Steph

Judy said...

Very, very powerful, Mona! I've not heard of her organization before. I hope passing this along is a good way to get the word out. Thanks!!!

Maggie Toussaint said...

These violent acts against weaker individuals, especially women and children, really upset me. I admire Somaly Mam for having the courage to take a stand and make a difference. God bless her and the 6,000 she's saved.

Anonymous said...

THANKYOU Mom. It's a super write up. Thank you for helping to share awareness and encouraging others to read; yourself becoming a piece of the fight against human child trafficking. Love, your daughter.
A.B.

Allison Chase said...

Mona, what a powerful and inspiring story. It must have been extremely difficult to read, but we shouldn't shy away from difficult things when it could mean a difference in someone's life. Thanks for sharing.

Keena Kincaid said...

Mona,
This is the type of story that breaks my heart and makes me worry so much for the girls I know. The attitude that this is OK is so pervasive that even those who aren't sold into sexual slavery are touched by misogyny that allows this to flourish.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

WOW Mona, it does strike your heart. I've heard of this before. Bless her heart for what she is doing for the young women in such a barbaric situation.

Beth Trissel said...

An outstanding young woman with an unbelievably horrific story. Her work is amazing and vital.

Autumn Jordon said...

What a chilling story and a courageous woman. More than herself, I bet she feared for her daughter.

I've done a ton of research on human trafficking and the things I've read is both heartbreaking and sickening. I'll definitely pick this book up and look further into supporting her work.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you all for stopping by and commenting. Please spread the word so that this amazing woman's mission is met with success. We can't close our eyes. These things are worse than viruses and contaminate every country.

Pamela said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for telling us about what seems to be an excellent book and a powerful message that shines a light on the underbelly of civilization.

Dunja said...

I'm dutch so my englisch writing is not so perfect..i'm sorry.. but i'll give it a try. I've read her book and for me she is a Hero..!!I hope that people all over the world will help her in every possible way to continue her good work... :-)