"But what makes trafficking in Cambodia different than anywhere else?" I thought several times over the years since learning of Rapha House. Rapha is the Hebrew word for healing and is used to describe God in the Old Testament as the God who heals. Jehovah Rapha! In Exodus 15:26, God had turned bitter water at Marah, after leading the Israelites away from Egypt, sweet. God told the Israelites that if they would follow his ways he would be the God who heals them.
Rapha House seeks to rescue girls who have been forced into sex trafficking, as young as four years old, and provide a safe place where they can hopefully and prayerfully be healed from their abuse and trauma. Compared to non-faith based programs in Cambodia, Rapha House has quadruple the success rate of girls not returning to prostitution. 80%, I wish it could be 100%, but 80% of the Rapha House girls find viable means of living free from forced prostitution.
Girls are trafficked in three major ways in Cambodia. They are told their is a job in a neighboring city and are then tricked into a brothel where they have to work off an incurred debt. They are kidnapped and forced into prostitution or they are sold by their family to traffickers; sometimes knowingly and other times unwittingly. One of the root causes of trafficking in Cambodia is poverty, another enabling factor is the cultural norm of paying for sex. Rapha House seeks to engage these two problems, eliminate poverty and shift the cultural norm. We will look at the cultural norm factor in a later post so first let's look at poverty.
What makes trafficking in Cambodia different? The poverty level and the governments inability to raise the poverty level of the people. Since the turn of the century, Cambodia has been behind the growth of infrastructure that would allow for steady economic growth. The Indochina Wars would decimate even further a country already behind industrialized nations. The dark irony is that the cause and effect of poverty is what birthed the Khmer Rouge ideology and their ideology only perpetuated the myth that poverty would create true equality.
Poverty was the center driving force of the Democratic Kampuchea Regime (Khmer Rouge). Rather than allowing for a class system, Pol Pot and his followers sought to create a utopian agrarian society that was self sufficient, not needing the aide of anyone especially the West. Everyone was equal under the watch of Big Brother number 1 (Pol Pot), equally poor was the reality. The level of forced poverty is still deeply imbedded within Cambodian culture. Everyone seems to both want to get out of a certain level of poverty and yet accept and remain within the life given to them by the forces in the Universe. Fear, corruption and religious ideology has allowed poverty to keep its grasp on the Khmer people. Within this poverty, the seeds of sex trafficking have grown and is flourishing.