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Families wracked by rape, sexual abuse

Families wracked by rape, sexual abuse

Thirteen-year-old Srey Mom was repeatedly raped in 2007 by her stepfather.

“I never thought he would rape me because I regarded him as my real father. I loved him,” she said, as she cradled a 2-month-old daughter who is also her stepsister.

“He used to hold a knife to my throat and threaten to cut me if I rejected his advances or if I told anyone what he was doing," the teenager from Kampong Thom province told the Post.

“I told my mother, but she did not believe me."

For Mom, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, and others who have been sexually abused by relatives, the experiences have brought shame and misery on the victims and a shattered sense of trust to their families, say social activists who are calling for the authorities to do more to detect and prevent these crimes.

"Men who rape their children, sisters or other relatives are not human. They’re like animals," said Pol Sovannarom, coordinator of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center monitoring program.

“The government has to pay much more attention to this problem,” Sovannarom said. “The government needs to strengthen law enforcement and to severely punish men who commit these crimes.”

While rapists face 20 years in prison if convicted under Cambodia's current laws, police often fail to recognize sexual abuse within families as a serious crime and frequently ask for money to "mediate" the situation rather than make arrests, social activists say.

“It is illegal for the police or other authorities to not help victims or to ask money from them,” said Kek Galabru, director of the Cambodian rights group Licadho.

“Based on the law, they [the police] must be punished or stopped from doing their work,” she told the Post.

Sim Souyeang, director of the NGO Protection of Juvenile Justice, also expressed concern that the incidence of rapes involving relatives would increase if nothing was done about the issue.

Protection of Juvenile Justice aided 104 rape victims last year, including 10 involving incest. In the first five months of this year, it has assisted 54 rape victims, six of whom were assaulted by a relative.

Licadho's senior children's rights monitor, Pek Vannak, said the group aided 284 rape victims last year, including 13 cases of incest. In the first four months of the year, one of the 42 rape cases handled by the organization involving family members.

Victims also worry that without better enforcement, their siblings are at risk of future abuse at the hands of family members who authorities fail to arrest.

“My younger sister is living at home, and I am afraid that he will do to her what he did to me," said Mom.

Cambodia's top anti-human trafficking police officer, Bith Kim Hong, said he saw incest as an important social issue that was made worse by increasing access to hardcore pornography.

"I think we can stop it if we strengthen law enforcement, eliminate pornography and prohibit the production and distribution of sex videos," he said.

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