A lack of community understanding about how to protect their children from sexual abuse leaves them vulnerable. APLE’s Community Engagement Program focuses on disseminating knowledge throughout the general population through the identification of key members of communities and the provision of education on how to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Additionally, by building a committed informant network and running phone and Internet hotlines where the public can report abuse anonymously and confidentially, this program boosts informal social protection mechanisms to prevent and eradicate sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
APLE’s community engagement activity engages all levels of society, from seeking support from businesses and private companies for the operation and promotion of the Internet and phone hotlines, to multi-sector meetings and trainings with youth, NGOs, and peer educators and community leaders to directly increase knowledge about CSAE in the general population.
In 2018, More than 1,000 participants attended our 46 awareness raising events and training activities.
How Kosal, from being unaware of child sexual exploitation, became well-informed and participative
Kosal, 13 years old, is currently living with his older brother and mother. The father lives separately after a divorce. Apart from his school time, Kosal mostly helps his mother with her farm and fishing.
One day in 2015, while Kosal was at the farm he met one of his friends who knew a Dutch national. The next day Kosal was introduced to the Dutch. The Dutch mostly took them to a big lake at a rice field next to their community and shot their photographs. At first, Kosal was happy having his photographs taken. Back and forth, the Dutch always brought Kosal and his other friends from the same village to the lake. Once in a while, the Dutch instructed them to be naked and posed for photos, which they followed. The Dutch gave them some money 2-3 USD to the boys in most encounters.
Both Kosal and his other friends didn’t realize photographing of someone in naked or sexual manner was kinds of sexual exploitation. They continued to meet with the Dutch occasionally.
In December 2016, a community man who was skeptical of and felt suspicious about what the Dutch was doing with the community boys reported to APLE agent. Immediately APLE alerted the AHTJP police in Siem Reap for their investigation. APLE assisted police in the investigation; however, the Dutch was not located. The police identified a total of 22 boys who were groomed, lured and exploited by the Dutch. In April 2017, the same informant reported to APLE that the Dutch re-appeared at the community and APLE prompted the police to take action. The Dutch was arrested and formally charged by Siem Reap provincial court with Child Pornography (Production of child pornography), a charge which carries a punishment between 5-10 years imprisonment if found guilty.
Kosal and other twenty-one underage boys were rescued by the police. Kosal and his family at first thought it was not a kind of exploitation and were reluctant to pursue the court case, but they did at the end. When the families and the victims decided to pursue the court case, APLE offered them free of charge and impartial legal aid. APLE social team, after providing crisis support to the victims, coordinated other services from Hagar and First Step Cambodia (FSC) for these boys and families.
To educate and assist the families more during their legal proceeding and rehabilitation of their children, APLE conducted two training sessions for them on (1) sign of sexual abuse and exploitation (2) protective care, (3) how to support victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
During and after the training, APLE used pre-and post-test to evaluate their knowledge and found that they had increased knowledge of the topics and almost every one of them expressed their strong commitment to support their sons throughout the legal proceeding and rehabilitation processes.
Kosal and other twenty-one boys have already testified at the investigating judge and are waiting to hear the set schedule for trial. APLE’s legal team, especially lawyers, continues to follow up, inform them of the process and provide them with legal advice and counseling as needed. The trial schedule is expected early 2018 while the Dutch is being held provisionally in Siem Reap prison.
To protect the dignity of the victims, the Internet Hotline Cambodia of APLE continued to identify the photo of the victims that have been taken and remove them from the internet, if they were disseminated on any website.
Kosal: name changed for anonymity purpose.
AHTJP: Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection