Finding justice for the victims of sexual abuse is the goal of Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ Prosecution strategy. To achieve this, the victims themselves play a prominent role in the process. Dara, now thirteen, was sexually exploited by a foreigner in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Though greatly affected by the horrible experience, Dara was courageous and determined to involve in pursuing legal justice for himself, an inspiring role model for other victims.
Born into a poor family in Kompong Thom province, Cambodia, Dara and his elder sister were left alone when their parents passed away. Dara’s sister, who was fifteen years older, got married and had two children. Her husband who had migrated to Thailand for work, suddenly stopped sending money to support the family and remarried. In 2013, his sister decided to move to Siem Reap with Dara and her two young children.
In Siem Reap, a tourist destination in Cambodia, Dara worked on the street near a Buddhist shrine as a beggar. One day, a western-looking man approached Dara, convinced him to go to a quiet place and paid Dara to do sexual acts on him. As vulnerable and defenseless as he was, Dara did not know he had been exploited by the foreign man.
Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a local partner of Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Cambodia, received a report from a partner NGO about sexual abuse of little boys in Siem Reap. APLE, jointly with the local authorities, held an investigation into the case which led to the arrest of the foreign man in February 2014. Dara was just one of many other boy victims that was sexually exploited by the accused.
An assessment was conducted on Dara and his sister’s family. The living environment in which Dara lived provided no protection to him at all. APLE assisted to relocate Dara to a shelter in the province; followed by continuous support including counselling, medical health care, education at a private school and school materials.
Besides social protection, as part of TdH Netherlands’ Prosecution Strategy, legal advice and representation were also provided to Dara. The strategy ensures that victims of sexual abuse like Dara receive the justice they deserve. In July 2014, accompanied by a lawyer from APLE, Dara and his sister went to testify at the provincial court. Dara was confident and courageous to offer a strong testimony related to the abuse.
The accused was convicted of child prostitution and sexual abuse under article 34 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. Dara and his sister were happy with the verdict. However, Dara believed if the man was deported from Cambodia, he would have no other chance to commit the abuse on other children again.
In February 2015, the lawyer from APLE accepted the request from Dara and his sister to appeal for a more severe punishment of the convicted. As a result, a new verdict was released in October 2016 stating the judge's decision to ban the convicted from staying in Cambodia for the next ten years after his jail term is completed.
Dara was praised for his bravery and determination to pursue justice for himself as well as for other boy victims who went through horrible experience at such a young age. Finding justice for these vulnerable children is indeed a long journey, but Terre des Hommes Netherlands in partnership with local NGOs aims to continue their work until the world becomes a place where children can have a decent life and grow up to be independent adults.