Yeang grew up in a province about two and a half hours away from Phnom Penh, Cambodia with her mother, stepfather, and two half-sisters. Her stepfather married her mother when she was three years old, he’s the only father Yeang has ever known. While there was a great deal of love in their home, there wasn’t always a lot of food. Yeang’s parents struggled to provide for their children and when Yeang was 12, she was sent to live with her grandparents as her mother and father sought work outside of their province.
When Yeang arrived at her grandparent’s, she discovered that more family members were living there, including her uncle. About a year after Yeang moved in, her uncle raped her. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone, and convinced her that if she told her parents, they would kill her too. Yeang’s uncle told her that she wasn’t her father’s real daughter, so she didn’t matter. He raped her repeatedly over the course of the year, and Yeang felt completely helpless.
When Yeang’s parents came to visit, they noticed that something had changed in her. One night, her father dreamt that something awful had happened to his daughter and not long after, he asked Yeang if something was wrong. She was hesitant to tell her parents about what her uncle had done, fearing for her life and carrying a heavy burden of shame. Yeang’s parents told her that they loved her and insisted that they wanted to know the truth.
When Yeang was finally able to get the words out about what her uncle had done to her, they were distraught, and went to her grandparents and told them that Yeang should marry her uncle in order to preserve the family name. He saw no other way to stop the shame that would hang over the family if the community found out. But Yeang’s grandmother objected, saying that Yeang was too young to be a useful wife and that she would only be a burden to her uncle. Yeang’s father then decided to approach the police, but because he wasn’t able to pay them, he was refused assistance. After asking around for help, Yeang’s family was referred to Hagar.
While receiving services from Hagar, Yeang met other people who shared similar experiences with her, and she realized she was not alone. Yeang began to recover from her traumatic experiences and performed well in her academics. When Yeang graduated from grade twelve she received a scholarship from the Prime Minister of Cambodia to study English Literature.
Now, Yeang is a teacher at an international school and her dream is to be the principal of a school like the one she currently teaches at. She’s also engaged and planning her wedding to a man who loves her very much.
When asked what her advice would be to other people who have experienced abuse and trauma, Yeang says, “Your story does not finish there. There is more for your life.” Yeang is living proof that this is true; her story didn’t stop at age 12. She is confident and deeply proud of who she is, as are the Hagar staff who have walked the whole journey with her.