This week we finished our interview guide and consent letter. We started to spread information about our thesis and the APLE organisation on social media and will start a fundraising for the organisation over the coming days.
We interviewed 5 team leaders this week and we have 2 left for next week. It went great, they were very informative and would tell us a lot about their work and experiences! There were some heartbreaking stories and we are amazed about how positive and happy they seem to remain considering their work.
The APLE staff were very sweet to invite us to their yearly Khmer New Years celebrations and we were so happy to join! It gave us a chance to get to know the staff outside of the office and they were as warm and inviting, just like they were during the first meeting. It turned out to be a boat get-together with plenty of Cambodian food!
APLE have clear equality principles in all respects and the staff has really inspired us both. One of the employees travels a total of 4 hours every day to get to APLE’s office. There is no shortage of ambition amongst APLE’s employees!
We arrived in Phnom Penh! It is warm and people are very friendly. We stepped into our pretty decent hotel lobby where we had booked a room for one month and were instantly reminded of why we are here. The sign on the counter says “no sex trafficking”.
After battling our jetlag, we started off with some deep diving into ProQuest to gain a better understanding of Cambodia’s history and its effect on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). We also worked our way through prior research to discuss and identify gaps. We noticed that there were plenty of research on the phenomenon SEA along with counter actions and preventions means; yet, very little about victim stigmatisation and the absence of a complete and legitimate status of being a victim. With that, we had found our main focus area and started to put research questions into writing. We realised that both Christie’s “The ideal victim theory” and Goffman’s theory about stigmatisation were great guidelines for our research.
We consider ourselves very lucky to collaborate with the APLE organisation. They gave us a warm welcome as they invited us to a meeting at their office with the team leaders within the organisation. Five hardworking and busy professionals set off an hour of their day to introduce themselves to us and to tell us about their work and ambitions. We are inspired by their drive and commitment to put an end to SEA of children! They also seemed to be very keen to learn from us in exchange which made us feel valued and important too.
Through our own research, we have gained a deeper understanding of the country’s history and context that allows continued exploitation of children, through e.g. prostitution. The Cold War and the US peacekeeping troops, corruption, and poverty are emphasised factors. Later, tourism became a strong contributing factor along with the Internet, which has become an increasingly popular platform for SEA. As a result, the street-based vulnerability has to some extent received less attention, says APLE’s ED. During the meeting with APLE, we also learned that the family and society play a major role in victims’ rehabilitation and reintegration into society as shaming and distancing from abused children is common. Exposure to sexual crimes is “taboo” and victims are facing the risk of being rejected by their families and the society.