Objectives:The objective was to identify what special challenges the local communities in Cambodia meet concerning child sexual abuse and to find strategies to meet these challenges.
Background:Since 1998 and the end of the civil war, IOM’s “Childhood Mental Health & Counter Trafficking Project” has worked to prevent child mental health problems in the Rattanak/Mondul District of Cambodia. In the year of 2004 it was stated by the Program Director Dr. Eng Samnang that one of their most challenging tasks was to handle child sexual abuse. This project assignment was thereby started to contribute to the ongoing IOM “Childhood Mental Health & Counter Trafficking Project” on the subject of child sexual abuse.
Material and Methods:Through literature studies and the study of Save the Children’s projects in Sri-Lanka and Zimbabwe, educational material was produced to contribute to the knowledge of IOM staff on child sexual abuse. Qualitative interviews and workshops were held to find if there were challenges concerning child sexual abuse in Cambodia more prevalent than in western countries like Norway, GB and the USA. Six qualitative interviews of representatives from key organizations working with abused children were made in Phnom Penh and Battambang, one workshop was done with the IOM staff and one with a group of girls exposed to child sexual abuse. The data were analyzed using Systematic Text Condensation.
Results:The main challenges identified were stigmatization of the sexually abused children in the local communities, poverty, lack of respect for women and children’s value and rights and the lack of knowledge of child sexual abuse. The most used strategies to meet these challenges in the local communities are educational work on children’s rights, counseling and financial help to high-risk families, shelters and vocational training for abused children.
Conclusions:There are many challenges in the Cambodian society concerning child sexual abuse that may be added to the challenges we already know from the western countries. Since most of them are due to poverty and the lack of knowledge, education is a very important strategy. This was reflected by IOM’s positive response to the educational material we presented. Both to prevent child sexual abuse and to identify and assist children exposed to sexual abuse we recommend to introduce school- and community-based programs on child sexual abuse, child protection and perpetrator prevention. We also support the use of shelters, vocational training and counseling for vulnerable children.