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Finding shelter from the storm

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081128_05.jpg

SVAY RIENG

The Safe House, a women's shelter at an undisclosed address in Svay Rieng, battles rising domestic violence by giving hope to the province's

most at-risk victims of rape and battery

Photo by:

THOMAS GAM NIELSEN

Educational boards and posters are handed out in Svay Rieng to change people's attitude towards domestic violence. 

FOR more than a year, a shelter simply called the Safe House has been helping the most vulnerable victims of rape and domestic violence in Svay Rieng province, where, like most areas outside the capital, social services are limited.

"There has been a big difference [since we opened]. Now, we can help these women with full security, and they do not have to feel afraid," said Nget Thy, project manager at the Cambodian Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights, the organisation that runs the Safe House.

 The idea for the Safe House, which is located at an undisclosed address, was born after an original open-door shelter proved unable to protect victims from their abusers.

"When we received victims of rape or domestic violence, the perpetrator would sometimes come and complain and want to take the victim from our shelter," Nget Thy said.

"Also, brothel owners would pass by and want to get back their former sex workers," he added.  

Since moving to their new address, the organisation has been able to provide security for at-risk victims of domestic violence or rape who have been targeted by perpetrators trying to track them down.

According to Lourdes Autencio, coordinator of counter-trafficking in persons at the Asia Foundation - which is a major donor to the Safe House - the centre is particularly impressive as it evolved in response to local needs rather than because of an explicit donor request.

"It was born out of the need of those high-risk individuals,"  she said, adding that the Asia Foundation gives technical support to the Safe House.

Growing need

A report released Tuesday by the Women's Affairs Ministry said that a quarter of Cambodian women were the victims of abuse, while young girls have increasingly become targets of sexual assault.

In Svay Rieng, the rights group Licadho has reported 14 cases of rape this year, including those involving seven children, and 21 cases of abuse.

At the moment, five  females between ages 12 and 25 years are living at the Safe House, referred to the program by local authorities and other NGOs.

 The organisation counsels the women and tries to create an atmosphere that will allow them to take back control of their lives. "These are very sensitive cases, and the main point is to make them feel safe," Nget Thy said.  

Clients can live at the Safe House for up to six months, and afterwards are given vocational training or help finding a job.

At the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, general director Nop Sarin Sreyroth welcomed Safe House  initiative.

"It is good that they have the Safe House in Svay Rieng, because even though they could refer some of victims to us, we cannot take all cases," she told the Post.

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