From Ashes to Beauty
POVERTY, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & AN ABSENT MOTHER – THREE THINGS THAT SPELL DISASTER.
Born into a poor family with an alcoholic father, life was not easy for Sreymao. To support the family, her mother worked as a farmer somewhere far from home, leaving Sreymao with no protection from the violence she would face. At a young age of thirteen, Sreymao was raped by her uncle.
Shame and guilt plagued the young girl as she was looked down upon as a “broken woman” and was constantly blamed for the assault.
Sreymao faced even more threats and ill-treatments from her uncle’s side of the family as he was prosecuted for the assault: this was an uncommon practice in Cambodia where families would seek to resolve conflicts through financial compensation outside of court. Sreymao’s family anger towards her increased as her uncle was eventually found guilty and jailed. Traumatised and scarred, Sreymao could no longer stay in the village with all the chaos that was going on; she then moved to HAGAR’s shelter.
Even though she was physically safe at the shelter, Sreymao did not feel so emotionally.
Young Sreymao lived in constant fear. Her nights were dark and troubled with nightmares yet she could not find comfort in the community she was staying with – it was hard for her to trust others after the trauma she had experienced. This caused her to isolate herself and retreat into silence. Often, she would sit alone in deep sadness, trapped in a whirlpool of negative thoughts caused by the abuse.
With intensive trauma care and counselling, Sreymao was slowly able to trust again and be reintegrated into a supportive foster family. The continual care from her foster family and trauma intervention from HAGAR helped her to regain a foothold in life and grow in confidence. Even with HAGAR’s support, Sreymao struggled tremendously in school. The effects of trauma on a child has severe repercussions on their learning ability. Though academic learning was a challenge, Sreymao thrived when it came to cooking – a domestic skill that she was able to hone. Focusing on her strengths, HAGAR encouraged Sreymao towards her cooking talent, which later enabled her to have a regular income through a good job.
Today, Sreymao is an empowered woman, healed from trauma and flourishing in life. Not only is Sreymao a professional cook, she is also a wife of a trustworthy man – a huge step for someone who could not trust others in the past. She has also mustered the courage to face her family and is on the road to reconciliation with them.
Demonstrating true forgiveness, Sreymao sends money back home to her parents to provide for their needs despite them abandoning her at a time when she needed them the most. We are so proud of her act of compassion and decision to forgive.
Out of the brokenness, we see an extraordinarily beautiful soul - there is much we can learn from Sreymao.
Sreymao’s story is not unique to young girls in Cambodia where prevalence of violence against women is high. Your gift of trauma healing and healthcare can protect and empower girls like Sreymao as they heal from the cycle of abuse!