“The best day of my life was the day I received this Hello Kitty teddy bear. It was also a sad day because it was the day I left Hagar’s recovery programme. But I reintegrated with my family and now I feel safe and happy.”
When Bopha was only 6 years old, she was sexually abused by a man who broke into her home.
Bopha’s father was an alcoholic and had gone out to drink with friends. Their grandmother was babysitting her and her younger sister at the time while their mother went to find the father. When the perpetrator broke down the door, hitting the grandmother leaving her unable to reach for help.
As the man left the house, he threw $5 on Bopha’s bed and threatened to hurt her more if she told anyone about what he had done. At such a young age, Bopha was left hurt and in shock. When her parents came home, she told them of the abuse and they immediately went to the hospital and reported the abuse to the police. The authorities were able to trace the abuser who is now serving a 25 year sentence in the local prison.
During the four years that followed, Bopha was transferred to Hagar and lived at Hagar’s girl’s recovery centre.
“I was scared the day I arrived. I didn’t know anyone and I was still worried about strangers. But after a few days I realised I was at a safe place. I liked studying and it was fun to play outside with other children. I don’t know about their life. Some have physical marks but we never talked about why we were all there, we just smiled and played.”
Hagar’s catch up learning centre was a place of healing for Bopha. She spent weekly sessions with her case manager and counsellor, who helped her heal from her trauma through trauma informed care and art therapy. She proved to be an excellent creative student, paying attention to the teachers and helping them clean up after classes. The young shy girl who had first arrived was changing into a sweet and smiling student.
In early march 2016, Bopha was able to reintegrate into her family home, with close assistance from Hagar. The family home is located in a very small community where everyone knows everyone. But at her new school, no one asks where Bopha has been, she is accepted and participates in class.
Her favorite outfit is still the Hagar school uniform she was provided with. Her favorite toy remains enclosed inside its original wrapping, inside a black bin bag.
“I keep it in its wrapping because it’s such a precious gift. We have never had anything like this before, and it is Bopha’s to keep. She shares it with her little sister.” says Bopha’s mother.
“Life isn’t easy. I am always worrying about my daughters’ safety. I worry that there could be more abuse in the future, so I sleep next to them both, and my husband sleeps on the floor.” She says.
Today, Bopha is a bright happy child. She helps her mother around the house with chores and loves to ride to school. Her mother ensures that she rides with a group of 6 other girls and boys from their hamlet, so they stay in a safe group. Hagar’s case manager has helped the mother understand how she should keep her daughters safe inside and outside of the family home.
On a weekly basis, the perpetrator’s aging mother comes begging to have her son released in exchange for money, apologising on his behalf. But justice has been established and although it isn’t easy to turn her away, Bopha’s mother refuses to give into the bribery.
“The truest happiness, knowing my daughters are safe”.
Hagar provides recovery services not only for clients but also their families as they reintegrate. Bopha’s recovery is still ongoing but with close monitoring, she is improving and reintegrating well. Hagar also provides counselling to Bopha’s mother who is learning on family safety and safety within the community, on how to communicate with her daughters and educate them.