Monday, January 3, 2011
My name is Srey Leap.
At the end of this month I travel to Cambodia to do a week of True Body Project workshops with girls who survived sex trafficking and are living and healing at Transitions Global.
The story that is featured in the photo above is from one of the Transitions Global girls. It is a difficult story to hear and one I will hear over and over again during my time in Phnom Penh.
I understand how hard it is to live in a female body in our Western society. I understand what it feels like to be disconnected, to escape to my mind to check out of my body for awhile. And I have worked with girls who have been sexually assaulted and have had to prostitute themselves to avoid flat out homelessness. My New York colleagues Cameron Anderson and Liza Zapol have worked directly with girls who were sex trafficked in Harlem.
But I cannot even begin to understand what it feels like to be sold as a child into sexual slavery.
The True Body Project workshops I will lead will provide tools for emotional integration via writing, art and movement therapy. Trauma therapy requires reconnection between the parts of the brain that handle logical thought, emotional processing, and primal functions. This I know how to do. But I was worried about the language barrier and expressed my concerns to my friend Dr. Elisabeth Hodges. Elisabeth studied Romance Literature and Languages at Harvard and teaches at Miami University plus regularly goes to conferences here and abroad with super smart people like her.
My concern was not so much with understanding the girls (we will have a translator) but that the Cambodian language has not evolved to bring as much nuance to the language as is likely being felt by the girls. For example, when I worked with two of the survivors in Cincinnati, we had to change the writing prompt "I hunger for ..." to "I really want ..." because the Cambodian language did not have any words that represented deep yearning or desire.
Elizabeth reminded me is that one of the most powerful therapies for trauma is active, empathic listening. Since I will have a translator, I will be able to do for these girls exactly what we do in all of our other True Body Project workshops: we create a safe space to listen to and honor personal stories. I will bear witness. I will be present.
So keep reading my blog. I will make sure to include many posts from Cambodia so that you can also bear witness to the very real problem of human slavery in our world and see how James and Athena Pond and their colleagues at Transitions Global are working to bring light to a dark place in the human spirit.
If you would like to know more about our work in Cambodia or elsewhere, check out our websites and consider a donation to True Body Project or to Transitions Global.
Posted by Stacy Sims at 3:56 PM