Part 3: The Chab Dai Butterfly longitudinal research project, Cambodia. Authors below.

“The staff need to believe in those children; to give them a chance and have confidence in them”: Survivor Recommendations from the Chab Dai Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project, Cambodia

James Havey, Glenn Miles, Lim Vantheary, Nhanh Channtha, Sreang Phaly, Ou Sopheara, Pheouk Phallen, Kang Chimey, and Wayne Hancock


The Butterfly Longitudinal Reintegration Research Project (aka ‘Butterfly’) is a prospective panel longitudinal study designed to interview the same 128 survivors of human trafficking over the course of 10 years; a first of its kind (Babbie, 2007; Menard, 2002). The objectives of the research provided an “opportunity for survivors of sexual exploitation/ trafficking to express their re-integration experiences in order to give dignity and voice … about their life experiences, challenges, and perceptions” (Miles, 2021, p. 7); all analysed and reported on to a variety of stakeholders, including: NGOs, businesses, governments, law enforcement, and social work academia. The Butterfly research used a mixed-methods approach in its data collection through individual survey interviews sourcing both quantitative and qualitative data. This allowed for a diversity of ways that a respondent could volunteer their story to the research team. Multiple interviews took place two or three times every year over the course of the project cycle, allowing a deep sense of trust to develop between the researcher and participants, critical for garnering the recommendations herein.

A range of topics were covered throughout the life of the project, with the main longitudinal themes being economics, relationships, mental and physical health, and spirituality. Moreover, Assistant Programmes working with survivors of human trafficking periodically gave feedback to the Butterfly researchers about topics they needed more information, and thus asked upon during the following rounds of interviews. Topics reported on throughout the lifecycle of the project, with the latest publications referenced here, included: stigma (Morrisson et al., 2021); filial piety and financial anxiety (Smith-Brake et al., 2021); experiences and perception of male survivors (Davis et al. 2021); survivors’ rights while engaging with police and courts (Morrissey et al., 2021); social determinants of health (Havey et al., 2021); pathways to re-exploitation (DoCarmo, 2021); shelter-based aftercare (Cordisco Tsai et al., 2020); spirituality and faith-based leadership (Miles et al., 2020b); best practices for anti-human trafficking researchers and practitioners (Miles et al., 2020).

Following the successful analysis and reporting of survivor recommendations to aftercare shelters found in Cordisco-Tsai, Lim, and Nhanh’s (2018) study, Experiences in Shelter Care: Perspectives from Participants in the Butterfly Longitudinal Study, participants were asked to offer recommendations to a variety of stakeholders who engage with survivors of human trafficking during their recovery, reintegration, and beyond. The Butterfly researchers aimed to give the survivors one more opportunity to clearly state their perceptions and recommendations for improvements of care to all who engage in the aftercare of human trafficking survivors. Stakeholder groups asked upon during this 2018 set of open-ended questions, included: NGOs, national and local government, village leadership, the judicial system, police, the private sector, religious leaders, people in the community, parents and family, and, other survivors and children vulnerable to human trafficking. This paper organises the responses from the Butterfly participants around the stakeholder groups, and common themes of recommendations that arose. It is hoped these recommendations will inform each stakeholder groups’ practices when engaging with survivors of human trafficking; leading to safer and healthier communities for survivors to recover and flourish in.

An Overview of Child Participation in Policy & Research

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC; 1990) has been a blueprint of which children’s rights have been promoted and protected across nations. Lucker-Babel (1995) suggested that this convention triggered an, “international vigour in the world of international human rights” (p. 391). Today, the approach of the UNCRC is for the promotion and protection of children’s rights in an advisory and non-adversarial manner. Its success is reliant on diplomacy other than legal sanction. It is a design for governmental action and an educational tool that creates advocacy and awareness for those involved. The UNCRC’s strength lies in its innovative aspects, particularly through translation. Article 12 of the convention emphasises the child’s rights to freedom of expression, participation, and the right to be heard. Each of these, ensures that children can participate in issues important to their lives (Lucker-Babel, 1995).

Article 5 of the UNCRC introduces the idea that children should be able to exercise their rights as they acquire the competence to be able to do so. It provides an additional way of assessing a child’s evolving capacity to make decisions (CRIN 2018). This metamorphosis of the child acknowledges that “children’s development is a journey, and together with the right to be heard (Article 12), that they are entitled to be involved in decisions affecting them from the earliest possible age” (CRIN 2018). In this, the UNCRC values a child’s point of view, experiences, and individual characteristics when developing child-focussed programming and policy, rejecting the notion that adulthood knows best to inform this process.

The innovations promoted by the UNCRC included a detailed list of children’s rights, being civil, cultural, economic, and social; many stakeholders framing child’s rights into the ‘the three Ps’ of provision, protection, and participation. While innovative for its time, social scientists have further matured this discussion by arguing that children’s rights are human rights, and therefore their participation is not predicated on the provision of social and economic rights (Hiskes, 2021; Quennerstedt, 2010).

‘Nothing about us, without us’

The motto ‘nothing about us without us’ was adopted for the International Day of Disabled Persons in 2004, and while still predominantly the rallying cry for disabled person rights groups, its principles of participation are relevant across marginalized groups; especially while conducting Participatory Action Research (Doucet et al., 2021; Wolff & Hums, 2017). This slogan calls for policies to be developed and promulgated only with the full and/or direct participation of anyone of the group(s) impacted by it. This motto readily translates to the disenfranchised voices of those who have been trafficked: whether for labour, marriage, or sexual exploitation; inferring that without the inclusion of survivors, the work of activists, NGOs, researchers, and other stakeholder groups loses validity and relevance.

The Butterfly research has largely implemented practices of co-production found in Participatory Action Research (PAC). Social researchers Doucet et al. (2021) describe PAC in their study on care for youth aging out of residential facilities as, “rooted in transformative research with oppressed and marginalized groups… to provide a powerful platform for the voices of marginalized youth from care in a social action context” (p. 3). The value of co-production specifically does not have an agreed upon definition, and is often used as an umbrella term. Social scientists have described it to be a method of social inquiry that is built upon the exchange of knowledge and participatory research (Amann and Sleigh, 2021; Maxwell and Corliss, 2020). Collaborative in nature, the co-productive research process seeks to include all relevant stakeholders in order to transform research into practice (Amann and Sleigh, 2021, p. 715). The co-productive process consists of five levels of engagement: “listening to the child’s voice, supporting the child to articulate their views, considering the child’s views, involving the child in decision making, and shared power and responsibility for decision making” (Maxwell and Corliss, 2020, p. 4). As such, co-production is a vehicle that enables children to exercise their basic rights while also giving opportunities to improve their confidence, self-esteem, and various other soft-skills. In relation to sexually exploited children and adolescents Moynihan, Pitcher, and Saewyc (2018, p. 405) acknowledge that co-production helps in “reducing trauma symptoms, promoting healthy coping behaviours, providing access to basic needs such as food and shelter, reducing risks to sexual health problems, and educational and training opportunities to help avoid further exploitation.” Further academic research has indicated that co-production research helps translate research findings into practice, supporting the findings legally and politically (Doucet et al., 2021).

Participation & Belonging

Miles et al. (2021) observes, “relationships are the most important to get reliable information from the participants. Understanding about the participants’ situation and making them feel safe to talk about what they think is crucial for evaluation of the programs” (p. 39). Creating relationships was an integral part of the Butterfly research. Therefore, by reflecting back on co-production, the challenges to obtain solid data, to give validity, and voice, by implementing the complexities of the aforementioned UNCRC, the participants are able to confidently continue participating in the Butterfly research. Any collaborative challenges are able to be managed, power dynamics considered, moving forward with the research (Amann and Sleigh 2021). The children, through their shared history and experience with the research team have built trust; trust being one of the most important tenets for them to move forward. Having these pre-established relationships with the vulnerable participants proved to be “beneficial, as trust was easily built” (Amann and Sleigh, 2021, p. 719). The sense of belonging and community fostered over the longitudinal study has given this research an edge in its rawness and vulnerability, and finally a voice for those that have been rescued, rehabilitated, and restored.


This is a qualitative deep-dive into the recommendations voiced by the survivors in the Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project to various stakeholder groups. During the 2018 in-depth interviews, participants were asked by the Butterfly researchers, “What recommendations do you have for [stakeholder group]?” The six groups asked about were: 1) Police, 2) Village and Commune Leadership, 3) Private Sector Enterprises, 4) NGOs, 5) Parents, Families, Community members, and 6) Survivors and individuals vulnerable to human trafficking. Their responses were voice recorded and subsequently transcribed and translated into English, all with verification checks at every stage made by the Butterfly interviewers to ensure the interpretation of the survivors’ perceptions were not lost. Descriptive thematic analysis was implemented by the researchers in order to organise the rich details within the quotes given by each participant. The quotes in this article are displayed largely without any commentary or analysis from the researchers, so as to let the survivors speak for themselves and not distract any attention away from their voices. When presented with a large quote containing multiple themes, the authors have attempted to highlight key elements in order to guide the reader’s understanding.

This section provides an overview of the Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project and the ethical framework it followed. For more details on the Butterfly research project please refer to the previously published Therapeutic Care Journal article “I shared my experience and what it was like.” An Introduction to the Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project – a collaborative NGO Project (Havey et al., 2021).

The Butterfly Research Project

The Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project is a prospective panel longitudinal research, designed to interview the same 128 survivors of human trafficking, exploitation, and/or abuse over the course of the 10-year project—a world’s first of its kind (Babbie, 2007; Bryman, 2008; Menard, 2002). While always longitudinal in nature, the Butterfly project has taken a mixed methodology approach in its data collection and reporting. This has allowed for a diversity of ways a respondent could volunteer their story to the research team. Qualitative in-depth interviews and longitudinal quantitative surveying has also developed a deep sense of trust between the researcher and participant as various subjects were investigated and reflected upon during the interviews.

The Butterfly research team worked to develop trustworthy and long-lasting relationships with the survivor-participants and their families in order to minimize attrition over the years of the project; throughout their stay within aftercare shelters, re/integration back into the communities and beyond as their service completed. The participants were recruited through 14 aftercare programmes for young women, girls and boys, aged 12-30 years.

Retention of participants was challenging in the early years, with some participants leaving the country, losing their phones, changing addresses, or being otherwise unreachable due to various circumstances outside of either the survivors’ or the NGO control. Some survivors were unwilling to continue to meet with staff due to questions being asked by community and family members about why researchers were meeting them which they were afraid would lead to stigma. However, the majority of survivors did stay in touch, allowing the Butterfly researchers to track the outcomes of aftercare. Due to the efforts made by the staff to build trust and communication with the survivors, in 2018 – nearly a decade after the beginning of the program – 71% of survivors were still willingly participating in the research. While this has been a complicated process that has required continuous effort from the research team and participants, it has enriched the research with further disclosure of the survivors’ experiences and perceptions.


Due to the continued vulnerability among survivor-participants, the Butterfly Research adhered to a strict ethical research framework so as to, ‘do no harm’ (Bryant & Landman, 2020; Zimmerman & Watts, 2003; CP MERG, 2012; Ennew & Plateau, 2004; Robin & Rachan, 2019, p. 12; Taylor & Latonero, 2018; UNIAP, 2008). This echoed guidelines and frameworks set forth by academic institutions experienced in working with survivors of human trafficking, exploitation and sexual abuse. It is hoped that by communicating these in detail, future studies seeking to replicate the Butterfly research may use these as a framework for developing their own.

The Butterfly research sought approval by the National Ethics Committee of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Ministry of Health (NEC). In doing so, this built legitimacy and trust of the study’s activities among its participants and their families, audiences, policymakers and donors. It was necessary to secure protection of team members and the Chab Dai Coalition as they handled legally sensitive data.

The participants of the Butterfly research understood well about how their continued participation in this study was voluntary as their written consent was given annually and verbal consent was asked and recorded before every interview was conducted (Marshall et al., 2014). Finally, there was no monetary compensation given to the participants for their involvement in the study.


Cambodian children and adults are not typically invited for their opinions, especially in a society where the government rarely makes decisions with the involvement of the populous. Survivors in the country have even less opportunity to impact policy and political decisions due to their low social status and perceptions of having ‘bad karma’ (Morrisson et al., 2021). Historically, Cambodian culture has been impacted by the Khmer Rouge who notoriously killed dissidents of the regime, which discouraged anyone from sharing their perceptions.  All of these factors combined meant that these courageous survivors trusted the researchers before they were willing to speak up and share their commentary on the actions of various stakeholder groups and their recommendations for improvements to policy and practice. Once again, the importance of the relationship between the survivors and the research team cannot be overstated.

The recommendations in this research were taken from interviews with the survivors in 2018 rather than recommendations over the course of the project. Many recommendations survivors have provided to the Butterfly researchers have been reported on already throughout the project (please see, Further analysis through the primary data would be required if researchers want to understand the longitudinal nature of the recommendations given herein.

Lastly, these recommendations are organised by the stakeholder groups they are addressing rather than other intersecting variables of age, sex, socioeconomic position. Further analysis along these variables is recommended to understand how they influence a survivor’s priorities of needs and changes they would like to see made.


Table 1: Recommendation Themes


Stakeholder Groups Recommendation Theme
Survivors & Vulnerable Children Work hard to overcome obstacles
Be brave to report crimes
Do not rely on beauty to make money
Discern the intentions and actions of friends, partners, community members, and potential employers
Be aware of social issues and avoid dangerous areas
Survivors can be a reporting mechanism for other victims
Have a positive outlook on life to grow beyond past experiences
Parents, Families, and Communities Report crimes and receive help from police, community leadership, and NGOs
Do not discriminate against, shame, nor blame survivors
Be good role models and protect children from dangerous situations and people
Religious leaders are a source of advice and guidance
Children are not for making money
Parents need to comfort and care for their children
NGOs Collaborate with diverse stakeholders
Residential shelter programming should allow for more individuality
Work to stabilise the survivor’s family before reintegration
Focus on providing education to all children
NGOs need to build trust among community and survivors to mitigate negative perceptions
Regular household follow-ups
Provide prevention programmes in communities
Gratitude expressed towards NGO services
Private Sector Safe and legal migration & recruitment practices
Hotels and nightclubs need to protect against trafficking & drugs
Use advertisements to spread awareness
Do not discriminate against potential employees coming from NGO programmes




Village & Commune Leadership

Be good role models
Be approachable and assist all residents in the village
Be aware of the villagers’ wellbeing
Collaborate with service providers and protection agencies
Report offenders to police so they are arrested
Combat against corruption
Police Stop the rampant corruption throughout the police force
Perform detailed investigations
Utilise female police officers when working with survivors
Do not scare and intimidate children & survivors, and listen to their statements
Patrol communities more often
Change to become a force of generosity and support, rather than fear and corruption


Note: all names of survivors and locations have been changed in accordance to the Butterfly research’s ethical principles of protecting confidentiality.

Survivors & Vulnerable Children


Work hard to overcome the obstacles

I want them to study hard for their future. If they have a job, I want them to continuously work on their skills. They should find any skill that they like, for example, salon skill… they should work hard and not give up on something they haven’t had yet. They should struggle against the troubles they are facing and as soon as they can overcome it, they will find a new life for themselves. (Jorani, female, 22)

Be brave to report crimes

If they’re living in a high risk environment, I want them to be more cautious and tell their family that this place is too risky for them. They should tell their family to protect them or tell the village head to protect them… They should not stay silent because if they meet a problem and stay silent, no one can help them. (Chariya, female, 18)

Do not rely on beauty to make money

They should find other work and not rely on their beauty for work because their beauty will disappear one day. (Tola, female, 22)

Discern the intentions and actions of friends, partners, community members, and potential employers

You need to take more consideration before making any decisions. Please don’t trust other people easily because you can’t trust people based on their appearances. They may be close to you but you don’t know what their intentions are because some people are cheaters, they persuade in different ways. If they offer you any benefits, please think more deeply about what they are doing. For example, if they give you something for free, please don’t believe them…

In addition, you have to know which friends you should associate with. You should associate with friends who guide you to be a good person. Please don’t follow people who will lead you to become a bad person. For example, some people want money so they try to do everything to get it. Those kinds of people can easily be cheated/exploited.  For the women who have a husband, they should try to work to make money by themselves and they shouldn’t rely only on their husband. They have to love themselves and be the owner of their lives. (Phary, female, 28)

They need to protect themselves by not going somewhere alone. They shouldn’t believe in the tricks of someone else and they shouldn’t fall in love with someone’s materialism; they can easily be cheated by other people even in their own village. (Sothy, male, 18)

Be aware of social issues and avoid dangerous areas

I want to tell that person next time if they want to go somewhere they need to know the place clearly if it is a good or bad place; they should not just go without knowing the place well. (Kesor, female, 17)

Survivors can be a reporting mechanism for other victims

If I meet them, I will tell her not to be hopeless and I will help her to tell it to other people. Then I will ask her who is the perpetrator? Then I will tell her if she tells it to me I will report it to the village chief or commune chief for her. (Daevy, female, 13)

Have a positive outlook on life to grow beyond past experiences

I will encourage her and she should not feel discouraged because we have to move on and we cannot walk backward. When that problem happened to us, we should think of it as our experience and don’t blame it. If it has already happened, we should not keep thinking about it. Our life shouldn’t walk backwards but forwards. Please think of it as an experience to learn from. (Sorn, female, 17)

I want to encourage them not to feel afraid. [After leaving the trafficking situation] They should go to the hospital to check their health and then on to the shelter… Moreover, I will tell them that even though they are a victim, their lives can still have meaning. They should seek out a good resolution, find a safe place and do anything that is good for them. They should gradually forget all those bad memories and find a new way of life. It doesn’t mean that those bad problems make their lives meaningless, they can meet many good things in the future. (Chariya, female, 18)

I will tell them not to lose hope because they are not the only victim. There are women and children that become the victim and they can’t change their life as long as they stay a helpless victim…If we want to have a good life, we should not hope that anyone will support us forever. We have to help ourselves and bring good things into our life. Everyone has their own path and painful experiences either more or less. To me, we should not let these things affect our present. The past cannot destroy our present unless we allow it. (Nisay, male, 21)


Parents, Families, Communities


Report crimes and receive help from police, community leadership, and NGOs

They have a role to report to the police. (Maly, female, 25)

I want them to inform the police and don’t think the police don’t care just because it’s not their children or relatives; family shouldn’t think like that. When strange things happen, they can inform the village chief or commune chief to draw their attention and to investigate and clarify what is happening. (Sok, female, 27)

They should call the commune chief or local authority as well as an NGO that can find a safe place and justice for their child…They should not hide it or worry that if they file the lawsuit it will shame their child or lose his/her pride. If they do this, their kid will live in regret. The child might think that it is her/his fault as she was abused but she/he gets no justice. That’s why the parents should find justice for her/him. (Poeu, female, 17)

The parents should encourage their children and, if NGOs come to help, the parents should encourage them to stay in the shelter in order to be safe. Then, they should continue studying in the shelter because in the shelter they are safer than outside. (Malis, female, 21)

Do not discriminate against, shame, nor blame victims

Parents shouldn’t discriminate against their own children! Sometimes a mother of an abused daughter feels ashamed and the shame of the villagers. But for me, I wouldn’t do like that mother, I would stay on my daughter’s side. The mother shouldn’t feel shame because of daughter’s exploitation or because their daughter got pregnant. They shouldn’t think about the perceptions of others, but think more about their daughter. No matter what, she is our daughter. The mother can also ask for help from an NGO or the police while also still encouraging their daughter. (Nary, female, 21)

People in the community shouldn’t discriminate against a child. They should tell children to forget about the abuse they have experienced. If they say something bad, it would make children feel sad. When they know one child is hurt, they should encourage her and they shouldn’t focus on that problem or it may hurt children’s emotions. (Sothy, female, 19)

Be good role models and protect children from dangerous situations and people

Parents have to ban their children from doing sex work. They must protect them from men who wish to abuse them… They must tell their children not to associate with bad lovers, don’t go anywhere at night time, don’t believe the brokers. Parents should not play gambling games and sell their children… If their children are abused, they have to file a complaint… They shouldn’t blame on their children but they should hug and encourage them not to be anxious or commit suicide. In that situation, the mother is the main person to encourage her children. (Kolab, female, 23)

As I am a mother, I have to be careful of my daughter. (Bormey, female, 25)

I look after my daughter and am always caring for her wellbeing. I won’t allow her to go anywhere and she has to stay under my control. She cannot go anywhere with strangers. (Bormey, female, 25)

Religious leaders are a source of advice and guidance

NGOs and Church leaders should always encourage children and give them hope. They should help children to believe in God more. When children have no encouragement, they should encourage children by praying. Tell children to have more relationships with God. Encouragement is really important! (Nary, female, 21)

Both pastors and monks should seek new knowledge to give good advice. (Kolab, female, 23)

The church, wiseman, and preacher should bring the kids to church and teach them to learn about faith. Teach and encourage them to work. They can also give money to them for running a business to support their family. (Veatha, female, 25)

Children are not for making money

I want them to stop the children from collecting waste to earn money and support the family because sometimes they are too weak to do so. Well! They should find a job and support their children. (Anchali, female, 16)

Each family shouldn’t think short term, even if they are poor. They should try to work as hard as they can. If they sell their children to earn money, they can survive for only a short time but they destroy their children’s future forever… They should think carefully about their children’s future. They must love their children and don’t abandon them because of money. (Vanna, female, 19)

Parents need to comfort and care for their children

They have to protect their children well because they are their parents, they have an obligation to raise children, and protect them, so they don’t let problems happen to them. If a child is raped, parents please care for your children, whether male or female… they are kids and this happened to them. Please be encouraging to their children, don’t blame them, comfort them, and don’t discourage them. (Sreymom, female, 22)




Collaborate with Diverse Stakeholders

I want the NGOs to contact relevant authorities whether or not they have any problems. (Sok, female, 27)

Residential shelter programming should allow for more individuality

NGOs should give them freedom during staying in the shelter. [the residential shelter] was like a prison once when I used to stay there. They should give them 3000 to 4000R per day for their study because NGOs have more funding from donors so they should give them enough expenses. Also they should give them 20000R per week and offer them enough food. (Sokchan, male, 18)

NGOs should encourage survivors. They are kids who live in an organization like me, too. We know about our situation and why we live in an organization like this. However, my problem and their problem are different, but all problems always have causes. But please encourage all survivors to be strong and offer advice to help victims who were abused. (Sreymom, female, 22)

Work to stabilise the survivor’s family before reintegration

NGOs should encourage survivors to stay in the shelter even if their family situation is bad. They should wait until their family situation is better, such as having an appropriate home; then, they will have the ability to pursue their studies or if  they want to drop out, then it is their decision. If their family situation is bad, their future will be bad once they leave the shelter… For example, I saw a few people work for a factory after they left the shelter. I think they help them to study at an expensive vocational school, but when they left the shelter, they went to work for a factory or hair salon and got only USD200 to 300 per month and they could not support their family. At least they should wait until they graduate and their family situation is good. (Sokchan, male, 18)

Focus on providing education to all children

I suggest that they should find homeless children or children that have no money to go to school. I want them to help those kids by giving support and sending them to school. Although they do not live in the shelters, they can send them to school and support them. (Anchali, female, 16)

If they don’t want to study [in a school], NGOs should ask survivors to learn a skill [vocational training]. Therefore, they will have a skill when they leave the shelter. (Anchali, female, 16)

Because Cambodia is a poor country, there is a lot of violence throughout rural communities and one more, kids don’t get a higher education. Poor people live in anarchy and most kids don’t live happy lives… I want the organization to help all children. Let them obtain a higher education. (Sreymom, female, 22)

NGOs need to build trust among community and survivors to mitigate negative perceptions

NGOs should try to get close with survivors gradually. Most people don’t trust each other… For example, previously I used to be afraid of meeting with an organisation. This was because my neighbors used to tell me when I was young that I would be trafficked if I lived in an organisation. They said that ‘NGOs don’t send you to school, they don’t find a job for you, they don’t care about your future, and they are going to sell you abroad.’ Now, I tell others that this is not true. (Sreymom, female, 22)

I want them to do anything they can to make children trust them, and feel comfortable enough to share all their thoughts and emotions, everything, with them. (Sokha, female, 30)

Regular household follow-ups

Whether the children live in the shelter or have left, they should keep in touch and not forget about them. (Bormey, female, 25)

To me, NGOs are good. We can call upon an NGO as a source of support and trust. (Sokha, female, 30)

I want NGOs to continue helping more children, even children who have not experienced abuse. I want the NGOs to intervene and manage trafficking situations when they happen. Also, I want the NGOs to have prevention plans, not act only after the problems have happened. (Sok, female, 27)

Provide prevention programmes in communities

They should go to the community and educate them about human trafficking. They should also provide them with food. (Sorn, female, 17)

I want the organization to focus mostly on protecting children, preventing exploitation. If it’s possible, we can provide training in villages telling the parents what they have to do, allow children to school and how education impacts them. (Leng, female, 22)

NGO leadership should listen to all survivors and staff to resolve issues in a timely manner

The staff need to believe in children, to give them a chance and have confidence in them… sometimes they have had a lot of meetings and discussions, but when the result came out it was too late to resolve the issue, so sometimes staff need to trust children more and the managers should believe in their staff… Everyday managers just sit in one place and they just have a meeting with their own management team. Then, they just raise different issues during staff meetings and the subordinates’ issues become lost… nowadays I see there is a lot of training available for the staff to learn about different skills but the training for the managers seems to be few.” (Sopheap, female, 26)

Gratitude expressed towards NGO services

I have no recommendation besides thinking that NGOs are good. I want to thank the NGO that helped me because I would not have a better life even now if it wasn’t for the NGO. I thank them for helping children who are facing physical and mental problems. I am an example. I became a valuable person once I was brought into an NGO. They give me their love, knowledge, job and other things that I don’t know… I wish NGOs still work to help the next generation of victims, to still run their program without closing them down. (Kolab, female, 23)

Private Sector


Safe and legal migration & recruitment practices

Companies should have careful oversight when people go abroad. They should check the travel documents clearly [to ensure they are not being trafficked]. (Chariya, female, 18)

For the company who will bring people to work abroad, first of all they need to have a clear agreement with the government and they need to make sure the people going there are legal. (Keo, female, 23)

Businesses have to check their identity card whether they are under age or not. (Botum, female, 20)

Please they should not just gather people to go work abroad without having legal documents. (Thyda, female, 27)

Hotels and nightclubs protect against trafficking & drugs

I think opening family KTV is fine but for those who run KTV for serving sex services or trafficking victims, they should be banned and the owners imprisoned… Those women should not have to serve men sex. The men should not be allowed to have sex or traffick people there. (Kolab, female, 23)

I would like to suggest that they continue prohibiting the children who are between the ages of 15 to 18 from entering KTV, guesthouses, or hotels. (Botum, female, 20)

When people enter a restaurant, I want the owners to check their identity cards whether or not those who enter are old enough. (Botum, female, 20)

Use advertisements to spread awareness

They should make an spot to announce this matter in general to stop it [human trafficking and sexual abuse] and tell the citizens not to commit something like this. They should teach the citizens including men and women about how they should protect themselves from being abused or doing anything wrong in the community. They should meet with the citizens once per month. In addition, they should broadcast it on TV and produce an educational film. They should provide short films for the people. (Poeu, female, 17)

I want to say that they should help so that no one can rape the children anymore. They should also teach children not to be around those people who look strange. (Tina, female, 25)

Do not discriminate against potential employees from NGO programmes

They should open the opportunity to children who live in the shelter and don’t discriminate against them in preference for children from outside the shelter, as the businesses are unsure that they will be good as well! Therefore, they should offer them the chance for work to make an income in order to live warmly and to avoid exploitative working as in the past. (Lita, female, 20)

Businesses can help survivors by encouraging motivation… Sometimes they can motivate them or hire them to work at their place and pay monthly. That’s enough! (Bormey, female, 25)

 Village & Commune Leadership


Be good role models

First, we should not be quick to trust someone. Second, we have to strengthen ourselves and offer advice based upon our own observations. We have to gently tell them, like, don’t go through that way, don’t go somewhere far away because we cannot trust people now, we don’t know what will happen.  (Leng, female, 22)

The local authorities have to obtain justice for children and help the villagers. They are role models for villagers and we admire and respect them as long as they are not corrupt or take sides unequally. They have to work to obtain justice although they are just a normal citizen and like any other party. No matter what, they are Khmer people. (Bormey, female, 25)

Be approachable and assist all residents in the village

I want village chiefs to be warm towards the villagers. I just want them to care more for children as well. I don’t want them to only solve the problem for the adults or just work with those that they can only deal with. They need to look to those who are in difficulty and those who are stressed because there are a lot of them. So, they need to take care of them. (Dara, female, 17)

I want them to invite their villagers to join a meeting once per month. There are not any meetings in my area… I want them to plan for the meeting with villagers in order to help each other. (Chea, female, 28)

They should cooperate with each other. Village head man has to oversee their village. They have to report to the police if cases are happening. They should encourage police to look for and arrest the perpetrators. They shouldn’t think that because some victims are not their own family members, relatives, or siblings, they can ignore them. (Chan, male, 16)

Be aware of the villagers’ wellbeing

Village leaders shouldn’t look down or bad mouth survivors… They should encourage the victim that they should not feel depressed but get up again after that problem happens. (Makara, female, 23)

They have to know about their villagers and they should ask if their villagers are absent within the village in order to know where they go. For example, I was absent from the village and they didn’t know where I went but once I came back, they said “Oh! You came back.” (Thyda, female, 27)

Collaborate with service providers and protection agencies

Local authorities need to join in helping survivors, to work together with NGOs. For example, the women who have those problems need to cooperate with the police, village chief, and commune leader. They all need to cooperate with each other in order to deal with it. (Veatha, female, 25)

They should try their best and pay attention to issues of abuse and trafficking… They can pay attention by seeking help from police and assistance from NGO to help the victim’s family or the victim herself. (Makara, female, 23)

They should report to police and seek a lawyer and help survivors in court. (Daevy, female, 13)

Report offenders to police so they are arrested

I want them to share the information. Since they are in the village, they know about the problems better than the police. They should report offenses to police and they should not hide the information from each other. (SreyLeak, female, 23)

I suggest local authorities contact the police in order to investigate and arrest the offender. (Botum, female, 20)

They have to report to the police if there are cases happening within their places. (Kolab, female, 23)

They should work with the police… If the leader sees themselves as having no responsibility to oversee what is happening in their village, people will use drugs, someone can mistreat kids or they are violent. Please help to report this situation to the police. In fact, it starts from the village chief first; I wish he could try hard to help. (Sreymom, female, 22)

Combat against corruption

Local authorities should not only focus on money, but also think about their society. I want them to help the victims as they need help. (Leakana, female, 17)

The village and commune chiefs shouldn’t keep the problem without solving and only solve problems when there is a bribe. (Phhoung, female, 25)



Stop the rampant corruption throughout the police force

I want the police to be righteous and not always side with their family. I also hope they don’t hide cases that their family members have perpetrated. (Poeu, female, 17)

Police should catch the offender and punish them. They should solve the case with a peaceful method without using money and letting the offender go. (Makara, female, 23)

They should help Cambodian people, they shouldn’t ask money from people. (Nary, female, 21)

Police in the present are difficult because they just want only money. I want them to help people without thinking of money first. They think of money all the time once they meet a problem. Sometimes, when we meet with the police, they don’t want to see us. That makes it very difficult. (Phhoung, female, 25)

Perform detailed investigations

I want the police to keep investigating to search for perpetrators or human traffickers because I saw many cases happen through watching Facebook such as abuses and killings. (Chariya, female, 18)

Utilise female police officers when working with survivors

Female police are better than male police once they intervene with victims. (Phary, female, 26)

Do not scare and intimidate children & survivors, and listen to their statements

Child victims can’t answer once they are threatened or shouted at, so police should speak to them softly. Encourage children to not be afraid so that they can talk about their issues. It is hard enough for children to respond to questioning from police immediately after they face the abuse. (Vanna, female, 19)

They should minimize their rude words. Please speak politely to the victims and not to make us feel scared. (Tina, female, 25)

They should have the art of speaking. When we talk to them, mostly people trust those who use sweet words rather than those who speak badly. So, they should use good words with them. (Leng, female, 22)

They should use polite words. If they yell at us, we will be scared. Survivors will not tell the truth. (Leng, female, 22)

Patrol communities more often

I want them to pay more attention to social welfare because it’s their duty. So, we rely on them to patrol around to protect children. (Leng, female, 22)

I would suggest that authorities check up street children along the road in case they need to arrest youth who are using drugs and go on to follow up this case. (Leap, male, 23)

Change to become a force of generosity and support rather than fear and corruption

For some police they are kind and they feel pity for what happened to me. Even though I am not their own brother or son, they said no one wants to have this happen in their lives, especially the police in my village. For some police they just look for money… so they should not do what they want, but need to pity other people and to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes… I would like to send this message to some police. It is good if they can change. It is better to help other people rather than just to take advantage of other people. (Pich, male, 20)


The Chab Dai Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project implemented measures parallel to the slogan of ‘nothing about us, without us’ and participatory action research (PAR) in order to listen and allow the participants to narrate their respective experiences. This supported the research’s ability to be a platform for survivors to influence policy and practice over the 10 years of the study and beyond. Doucet et al. (2021) stated that PAR’s empowering and emancipatory power lies in the disruption of adultism throughout social institutions, policies, and practices (pg. 3). The researchers believe that the only way the survivors were able to give such direct and deep insights into the conditions that surround them was because of these principles and the time spent fostering the relationship.

The recommendations from this cohort of survivors are far-reaching and aspirational. It is hoped that the relevant stakeholder groups take this commentary from survivors, analyse their meaning, and begin to shape their programmes around their words. Throughout this process of developing survivor-informed policy and practice, stakeholders need to be in regular contact with experts and agencies working with survivors who can inform how best to implement relevant and robust actions to meet the ever changing needs of the survivor population in real time.


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