In 2008, Alastair Hilton, a technical advisor at First Step Cambodia, an NGO that specialises in supporting male victims of sexual abuse, published a report on child sex abuse in Cambodia.The report was called I Thought It Could Never Happen To Boys.
In the report, a young boy told Hilton: “I lived at the pagoda. There was a monk who mistreated me. I didn’t dare tell anyone. I didn’t want everybody to know. I was so ashamed that someone had mistreated me.”
In recent months, a number of cases of monks sexually abusing children have been reported by Cambodia’s English-language media. In September last year, a 20-year-old monk in Kratie province was arrested for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl and last November, a chief monk of a rural pagoda in Siem Reap province admitted to raping ten boys.
According to Bruce Grant, chief of child protection at Unicef Cambodia, “One in 20 boys and girls in Cambodia experience some form of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. Evidence world-wide clearly shows that children separated from their families and living in residential care institutions and religious institutions are at increased risk of violence and abuse.”
It is estimated that 95% of Cambodia’s 15 million residents are Theravada Buddhists. The country’s pagodas offer many children – overwhelmingly boys – temporary residence and an education that poorer, provincial Cambodians often cannot afford.
Despite the recent string of high-profile cases, the issue of child abuse was not broached at the 24th congress of Buddhist monks, held in Phnom Penh last December, to the dismay of many child protection advocates.
“Whenever an institution is aware of the problem of child sex abuse and fails to take swift and substantive action to address the matter, a clear opportunity to protect children has been missed and the institution’s reputation damaged,” said Mike Nowlin, deputy country director of Hagar Cambodia.
However, according to Nowlin, the increased media attention and research on the sexual abuse of children has “helped improve public awareness, which ultimately leads to higher reporting rates by survivors.”
“By acknowledging that there have been some issues, and [seeking] to partner with … local communities to promote safety, children will greatly benefit,” he said. “Such transparency and accountability will be highly valued and respected in the community and, ultimately, lead to fewer victims of child sexual abuse.”
- Give thanks for the work of Hagar International, and other like minded organisations, in seeking to help the victims of child sex abuse in Cambodia. Pray as they seek to bring healing and wholeness, and hope for the future to these beautiful children.
- Pray for those doing advocacy work on behalf of victims of sex abuse in Cambodia, to raise awareness of the problem and to see solutions being put into place to protect these children.
- Pray for the Cambodian government to recognise the problems of child sex abuse, and to seek to protect children, especially those living in institutions.
- Pray for a move of the holy Spirit through Cambodia, for many to hear the Gospel of Jesus and come to know His life, healing, hope and transforming grace in their lives and communities.
Luke 18 vs 16: “But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. “