We visited Rahab’s House at Svay Pak, a former brothel used as a church and community center to help sex-trafficked girls and other young people in the community. There are now two of them, Rahab’s House I & II. Inside House I, there used to be cubicles on both sides of a central aisle, where the girls used to be forced to work. Most of the cubicles have been removed now.
A couple of cubicles are left as reminders of what went on in this place before. Each cubicle is barely big enough for one bed. Stairs lead up to the “virgin” room. Virgins are prized because they are believed to be free from sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV.
The backdoor was walled up and barred, so that the girls could not escape. House I is empty now, because Agape International Missions, the organization that set up Rahab’s House, rented a bigger house several doors down the street, to open House II. They are working out a new plan for House I.
House II was originally built by a wealthy man who wanted to open the biggest, best brothel in Cambodia. The notoriety surrounding Svay Pak caused many of the brothels to move to the back streets, and also caused this man to give up the idea. Now, Rahab’s House II houses a bright and colorful community center, a church, residences for the two pastors, a school, and a clinic.
English and computer skills are practically valuable in Cambodia, among other useful skills such as arts and crafts. Many of the NGOs we have visited offer these skills one way or the other. We are hopeful that we may be able to bring our students to help.
We were told that many of the people living in this area are ethnic Vietnamese, who are stuck here as a legacy of the complicated history between the two countries. The older generation are considered illegal migrants. The younger generation were born as Cambodians, but remain ethnically distinct. Now Muslims are aggressively expanding, as evidenced by the many mosques springing up all over the area, complicating the situation further.
Rahab’s House has obviously affected the business of the brothels’ owners, many of whom having moved their businesses to the back streets. When we queried the American pastor’s wife whether this has resulted in hostility towards them, she told us that yes, “just” some death threats.
The depth and breadth of the man-made suffering of the people is deeply disturbing. Equally amazing is the love that motivated so many people - Cambodians, Americans, Chinese, Malaysians, ... - to come to help, making tremendous sacrifices.