The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam is the memoir of a woman who was sold into sexual slavery in Cambodia, escaped, and now rescues others. Somaly writes her story not for pity’s sake but to raise awareness and compel people to action.
And she’s succeeded with at least one reader.
Her bravery moved me. After escaping the brothel, she determined to go back to her worst nightmare in order to be a presence, a comfort, and a savior to other girls.
She began by distributing condoms to the slave-labor prostitutes to help protect them from diseases and teaching them about STDs, especially HIV. You see, Cambodians believe that having sex with a virgin will cure them from AIDs. To ensure virginity, the prostitutes get younger and younger. Some as young as five or six.
But her love for these girls didn’t stop there. She writes, “It wasn’t just about distributing condoms and information about HIV or about ferrying girls to the hospital. It was about being close to these girls and connecting with them in a deeper way” (p. 115).
This challenged me. Yes, yes, I argue. We give. We send money here and there. Sometimes even gifts. But what about presence? Being Jesus tangibly and physically to the hurting?
Eventually, Somaly began sneaking girls out of the brothels. She kept them in her home until they no longer fit. So she found a compound and started an institution. She desired to not just get them away from the bad but to teach and train them so they could build a new life for themselves. A good life.
Her life was threatened numerous times. Her child was kidnapped. Mobs attacked her compound and burnt her parents’ home to the ground.
She admits to her fear, yet she pressed on. She knew that if she should seek safety, the girls in the brothels would have none.
Hence challenge number two. Safety is not a bad value, but I realized that if it gets in the way of what God’s called me to do, it becomes bad.
And I prize not just my safety but my comfort.
What am I willing to give up in order to free the oppressed?
I highly recommend this book. I’m not big on memoirs, and I won’t say that the writing in this book is exquisite. But this woman and her story draw you in, shake you up, and won’t let you go.
If you’re interested in learning more about her organization, you can go to www.somaly.org. I also recommend an organization called International Justice Mission, a human rights organization who help people suffering injustice and oppression. (You can find other proven ministries and organizations involved in social justice here.)
Heather A. Goodman reads and writes. You’ll find her blogging about books, movies, and all things imaginative at L’Chaim.