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My name is Mei and I'm 19 years old. I went to school when I was younger, but I had to leave to work in the rice fields when I was My family is poor and when there is no food to eat, you have to do what you must to support them — as I'm the oldest it's my responsibility. When I first came to Phnom Penh, I got a good job in a garment factory.
This wasn't enough for my family. I worried all the time about them; my mum is old and ill, and I wanted my brother and sister to stay in school. At the time, I was living in a room with other factory workers, and one of them had a friend who worked in a beer bar.
My friend said she was earning good money from this and that I could do it too, so I went there to work. At first things were OK as I earned more money. I would sit outside the bar and ask men to come in and drink. The men would ask me for sex but I always said no, I wouldn't sell my body. Sometimes they'd grab me or fondle my breasts, which I hated, but if I complained the boss would shout at me.
A man called Sothy used to come to the bar a lot. He was so nice to me, he spoke to me romantically. One night, he offered to walk me home. I went with him, and he asked me to his room. I really liked him so I said I would, we sat and talked. When I wanted to go, he wouldn't let me.
He pinned me to the bed and raped me. I was a virgin and the pain was huge and I bled a lot. He told me he would beat me if I told anyone and that no-one would care anyway as I was a beer girl. I was so scared after this and so ashamed that I wasn't a virgin anymore. The owner of the bar said he had a friend I could stay with, somewhere safe, and he took me to a guesthouse in the Toul Kork area. I realised it was a brothel when we arrived, but he said I didn't have to sell sex but could work as a cleaner.