Executive Director’s Impression of the Awards Week
It was a wonderful week and I felt privileged to have interactions with a lot of people who do care and inspire. I found the capacity building meeting to be a worthwhile experience to learn of so many best practices of the other awards winners and I’m convinced most of these can be replicated in Cambodia. During the Philanthropreneurship Forum, I was surprised by many outstanding philanthropists who have been tirelessly engaged to contribute one way or the other to improve the life and safety of most vulnerable children around the globe. This was truly a role model to build and promote in Cambodia. Sometimes, you can feel motivated to meet and talk to these people.
Further, the award ceremony gave us an invaluable opportunity to tell the world of our greatest story about the success earned after thousands of days working extremely hard to protect the most vulnerable people. Nice photos of the award delivery do help us feel proud and relieved.
Our expertise and programme
APLE is a specialised NGO dedicated to combating child sexual abuse and exploitation in Cambodia. Since 2003, APLE has worked closely with national and international law enforcement to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, raise awareness, and bring offenders to justice.
- Child sexual abuse and exploitation is often hard to detect, with few children understanding that the abuse is bad and even fewer reporting it. In Cambodia, many children suffer without help due to stigma or a culture of silence. Our investigators proactively identify and investigate suspected abuse, working in close collaboration with the police to take action. In addition, we have a committed and extensive network of informants who are trained to detect suspicious behaviour and report it. These reactive investigations make up more than half of our total cases and enable protection of children in all parts of Cambodia.
- Legal Aid: Abused children and their families often come from poverty and find the legal process intimidating, uncomfortable, and overwhelming. Children are frequently required to relive their trauma in court, sometimes in front of the suspect. Our legal team provides access to justice through pro bono counselling and representation and minimises trauma by ensuring the rights and best interests of the child are protected at all times. In particular, our lawyers advocate for child-friendly courtrooms; for example, protecting the child from having to see the offender in court with privacy screens or video testimonies.
- Social Work: Childhood sexual abuse or exploitation is a traumatic event, often leaving lasting psychological harm. From the moment of rescue, our social work team offers immediate assistance to the child, support during the legal process, and referrals to specialised counselling services. The purpose of the social worker’s involvement is to reduce the emotional trauma associated with the crime, investigation and legal process, as well as to ensure referral to appropriate aftercare services to assist in addressing the child’s emotional, social, educational, physical, residential and safety needs.
- Awareness Raising and Training: We believe that knowledge empowers and empowerment leads to prevention. We build local capacity by equipping a variety of target groups with the knowledge and tools to identify abuse and grooming and report suspicious behaviour to our 24/7 Hotline. We also conduct training to enhance the capacity to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation. Our investigators work side-by-side with Cambodian police to share investigative techniques and approaches to handling sensitive situations. APLE aims for sustainability, whereby the government and police force are committed to proactively combatting child sexual abuse.
Since its foundation in 2003 until 2015, APLE has rescued 692 victims of sexual abuse, trained 10,106 individuals in how to handle such challenging and sensitive cases, and contributed to 259 successful convictions of offenders.
Our Future Approaches and Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020
In its tireless and continuous efforts to protect children in Cambodia, today APLE adopted a five-year strategic plan (2016-2020) to keep up its good work on the protection of most vulnerable children in Cambodia. The strategy includes four key pillars: criminal justice development, court support, community engagement, and research and advocacy.
- Criminal Justice Development: The first pillar encompasses the work APLE Cambodia is most well-known for, as well as some new avenues to pursue in the future. This pillar is developed and governed by the belief that strengthening government institutions relevant to the criminal justice system is crucial to achieve long-term sustainable change. This pillar directly targets existing formal social and legal protection mechanisms and enables stakeholders to better protect children at risk of or affected by child sexual abuse and exploitation.
- Court Support: APLE Cambodia will continue to provide high quality and timely legal and social support to enable victims of sexual abuse to pursue justice without further trauma and will advocate on their behalf. In addition, APLE Cambodia will involve the DoSVY and other NGOs, in the provision of care to encourage their action and increase their skills. This pillar will strengthen informal social and legal mechanisms through development and dissemination of best practice guidelines for supporting victims and their families, case-by-case advocacy, and strategic partnerships.
- Community Engagement: The third pillar embodies engaging key members of communities in prevention. A lack of understanding about how to protect children from sexual abuse leaves them vulnerable. APLE Cambodia will work to change this by disseminating knowledge, building a committed informant network, and running phone and Internet hotlines where the public can report online and offline abuse anonymously and confidentially. This pillar boosts informal social protection mechanisms that exist in communities and encourages proactive prevention.
- Research and Advocacy: The fourth pillar recognises the importance of using evidence to underpin APLE Cambodia’s work. A variety of research initiatives will be undertaken to analyse previous trends and explore emerging areas of interest. In addition, the research and experience will be used to advocate for positive changes in laws and the criminal justice process. This pillar calls for changes in formal legal protection mechanisms to ensure children both at risk of, or affected by, child sexual abuse and exploitation are prioritised and protected at the highest level.
Our Future Prospects
The Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 is based on the outputs and conclusions from all activities we have done. We hope it will enable APLE Cambodia to optimise its impact on strengthening legal and social protection mechanisms, which are crucial to preventing and responding to Child Sex Abuse and Exploitation, and take us closer to achieving our ultimate vision of a safer community for our children. We look forward to receiving continued support from relevant stakeholders and counterparts to ensure a better protection system.