Sreypov Chan is a fiesty, young Cambodian woman, who escaped a haunting episode of sex slavery. Chan now works in an organisation and tells women stuck in the business of flesh trade that they don’t have to live a life so nefarious. This is her grim, painful and yet phenomenal story.  

Some of Chan’s early memories were of a happy childhood, with five siblings and doting parents and a house in the rural district of Koh Thom and their rice fields. Her father always wanted her to get an education. But he died when she was five and things began to change swiftly.  

“After that, my mother changed. She was terribly unhappy; all the love drained out of our lives. We became very poor” says Chan. They had to move out of their house and into a shack. Things began to look increasingly grim. 

The first days were quiet, till one day a man came to her room. 

Things only got worse from there. She was tied up and biting ants were let loose on her. She was also whipped with an electric cable and finally she said yes.

Chan recalls that her first client was an Asian man. 

Chan was imprisoned in her room for the next few months. If she didn’t meet her quota of 20 clients everyday, she would be given electric shocks. And on days when she couldn’t get out of bed because of tiredness, men, one after the other, would visit her room, something she has likened to gangrape. “I became numb. My life grew dark. I thought everything was finished for me” says Chan.

Chan always knew that her only way out of that hellhole was to escape and run away. So, one night when her client went to the urinal and the guard had left the door open, she ran. But she only reached as far as the entrance of the building and was caught. 

She was then sold to another brothel. She tried to escape from there as well and was caught and beaten up by the pimp and then sold again to another brothel. 

Chan tried to escape for the third time. But this time she succeeded. She was taken to the police station, where the officials send her to Somaly Mam, who runs a rescue centre called AFESIP. Mam herself has been a victim of sexual slavery and was rescued by a French aid worker.

Chan now works for Mam’s organisation and helps victims who are still stuck in those grim and gloomy buildings, telling them that there is a way out and they too can make it. 

It seems that having escaped from that life at the age of 10, luck favoured Chan quite early. Now she wants to change the life of other girls like her. When asked about marriage and children, she says “I don’t want that” and that she cannot imagine being with any man ever. 

She also acknowledges that telling her story would be a struggle but “If no one knows, nothing will change.”

You can read the original story, written by Abigail Pesta as this Marie Claire exclusive.

Design Credit: Suvojyoti Ray