Chantha became a child sex slave in Cambodia at age of 13. Freedom brought no restored sense of self: she observes that her life has “had no significance, no value” (though hopes that it might finally achieve “meaning” through the telling of her story). Instead, freedom brought rejection by her family, prostitution, AIDS, and—six months after she told her story—death from an AIDS-related illness.
When I was a little girl I dreamed of going to school, and then finding someone to love, to have a family. That was my dream, when I was a little girl. Then I was forced to become a prostitute, at age 13. My mother died when I was very young. My stepmother was mean, she would beat me and refuse to give me food. So I left my father’s house to find work. When I arrived in the big city, a woman said she can give me a job at her house. I was very happy to have some work and a place to stay.
But at this woman’s house, men would come. If I tried to refuse the woman would beat me, or shock me with electricity. And there was always someone watching, so I could not escape. In this house I was one of 15 girls. After two years I convinced the woman to let me go, so I can find my father and stepmother.
When I found them, they despised me and told me to leave. For three days and nights I slept in the fields along the road without any food. Hungry and alone I sat near a garden and waited for men to come to me. After several customers I had enough money to get some food and a bus ticket. In the city a man found me and said he had a safe place for me to stay. Then he sold me to another brothel. When I was a prostitute I was required to have 15 men each day. If I did not, I would be beaten and refused food.
This is the story of my life. I am now 24 and I am dying from AIDS. One of my greatest fears is that when I die, no one will come to my burial. When I talk to God, I ask him to give me peace. My life has had no significance, no value...I hope that by sharing my story, my life will finally have meaning. And can help prevent others from the deep sadness of my life.
Narrative as told to World Hope International, 2003, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.