Friday, October 14, 2011

The Abused and The Abuser

Today is the day I typically go to the brothel area where our partners work. Its an opportunity to catch up with the staff and learn what is going on. But every day is not a typical day nor is it ever dull in this village, there is always something new to report about. Today was again one such day as after lunch a man came wondering in with his head all bandaged up. Bunthan attended to him by taking off the bandage on his head to clean a large wound which was crudely sown together with stitches on the left side of the head. It was not a pleasant sight but then again this man was not exactly an innocent victim.
He is a brick factory worker who was living with his wife and 4 kids but apparently he drinks a lot and unfortunately in his drunken state he becomes very violent against his wife and kids. This is a man who would swing his 10 month old son upside down --- almost reminiscent of what the Khmer Rouge did with children although they usually took it one step further and would smash the babies heads against the trees. This particular father would terrorize his older kids by hanging them upside down and then dipping them into water. Again, another form of torture that reminds me of the Khmer Rouge era. It is interesting how history repeats itself.

Yesterday the man lost his temper in another drunken stupor and apparently tied up his wife and kids for about 6 hours. One can only imagine the emotional trauma of the children who have not only witnessed such acts of violence against their mother but they too have endured much at the hands of their father. This morning the wife (a church member) came into The Sanctuary. She was covered in so much blood that the staff had never witnessed such a sight before. They cleaned her up and arranged for her to go to a local hospital.

This afternoon it was the husband who came in to the Sanctuary and who was attended to by the Svay Pak staff. It seemed that after his night of violence against his family, his wife's brother along with a few men came after him and decided to seek revenge for all the violence he inflicted on his family. One would argue it was poetic justice that he would experience the same kind of brutality that he so readily committed against his family. I was talking with Dr. Carla ---she is a Brazilian doctor who helps out in Svay Pak daily and she mentioned that with these kind of head injuries Khmers usually don't wash their head near the wound for days but that only adds to further infection if it is not cleaned properly. So today, Dr. Carla and Bunthan took the husband at the back of the Sanctuary and proceeded to clean him up.

The type of domestic violence we see here is so much tied to the historical roots of this country and the suffering that people experienced at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. This story sadly is not unusual but the norm in Cambodia as its people continue to manifest the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. Gambling and alcohol are the two ways in which people here medicate their pains. On the surface, every thing seems well, people smile but not too far down from the surface, there is an anger that is waiting to explode and given the right circumstances, it is released and sadly the most vulnerable are the ones who are victimized.

Yet these acts of violence do not deter the staff in Svay Pak. They remain committed to serving the people in this community.  They truly continue to be the hands and voice and feet of Jesus. They care for both the abused and the abuser showing them both Christ's compassion, picking up the broken fragmented pieces of each life and helping to clean them up.  Like Christ who welcomes all people regardless of what they have done, so too the staff here live out this principal, not discriminating against anyone despite who they are or what crimes they have committed. They do not judge the individual or his actions but lavish each person with God's love, grace and mercy as they serve them. It is not surprising that God has given them such favor in this community.

How fitting it is that the name of our building in this community is called The Sanctuary. It truly is a place of refuge, a  place of safety, a place of  restoration, a place where one's dignity is restored, one's life is rebuilt and one's hope is renewed as Christ love is the healing balm that is applied to each wounded soul.

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