Women You Should Know: Somaly Mam
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own plight that we forget about the world around us. But your perspective completely changes once you meet Somaly Mam.
You think life has dealt you a bad hand? Take a seat, count your blessings, and learn about an existence you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
Through an extraordinary and surreptitious encounter, I had the opportunity to meet Somaly Mam a couple of years ago. Upon meeting her the first thing you notice is her smile, her thoughtfulness for all of those around her, and her enduring spirit. You would never guess that she was sold into a life of slavery in the Cambodian sex trade before she was 10 years old.
Born to a marginalized ethnic group in Cambodia which guaranteed a life of poverty and depravity, Somaly was sold into sexual slavery by a man who posed as her grandfather. Forced to work in a brothel along with other children, Somaly was brutally tortured and raped on a daily basis. One night, she was made to watch as her best friend was viciously murdered. Fearing she would meet that same fate, Somaly escaped her captors and set about building a new life for herself. More importantly, Somaly vowed never to forget those left behind and has since dedicated her life to saving victims and empowering survivors.
A woman who doesn’t know her real age and who battles night terrors every time she sleeps has dedicated her life to making sure girls and women like her are rescued from a life of sexual servitude.
Today, January 11th, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Long Pross, a recent sex trade survivor, was recently featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
In the brothel that imprisoned her, she endured countless rapes, beatings, electrocution, forced abortions and having one of her eyes ripped permanently from her face as punishment for her resistance. The Somaly Mam Foundation is helping Long Pross through her painful recovery. The foundation is currently in the process of identifying a doctor who will perform prosthetic eye surgery on Long Pross’ missing eye.
What You Might Not Know:
- According to the United Nations, over 2 million children around the world, some younger than 5 years old, are either kidnapped or sold to the sex trafficking industry every year.
- In an average lifetime, that translates into 140 million children who will face these horrors. As a proportion of the U.S. population, that would be one out of every two people.
While sex trade trafficking is mostly associated with Southeast Asia, trafficking occurs on the Continent and in the United States and is big, organized, business.
- An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking.
- Close to 10 percent are in the Middle East and Northern Africa
- More than 5 percent are in sub-Saharan countries
- 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98 per cent are women and girls
- In 54% of cases the recruiter was a stranger to the victim, 46% of cases the recruiter was known to victim
Hug your daughters, sisters, and nieces. And learn more about the Somaly Mam Foundation.