Diary of an Escaped Sex Slave

You think slavery went out with Abraham Lincoln? Ask my friend Sreypov Chan about that. She's a cute young Cambodian woman with a love for Kelly Clarkson songs and Tom & Jerry cartoons. But when she was seven years old, her mom sold her into sexual slavery.

This past summer, I had the privilege of traveling to Phnom Penh to report and write Sreypov's life story. Her brave choice to speak out finally puts a human face on human trafficking -- a $32 billion global business, according to State Department figures, but one that exists in the shadows.

Sreypov described to me her childhood in rural Cambodia. At age seven -- when most girls are going to second grade -- her mother sold her to a wealthier family to be their housekeeper. Two days later, she spent her first night in a brothel.

For years, Sreypov's owners forced her to have sex with as many as 20 men a day. If she didn't meet her quota, she faced unthinkable punishments -- she would be burned, whipped, covered with biting insects. And worse. "I wanted to die," she said.

Yet Sreypov is among the lucky ones. After years of this, she managed to escape. Today, at age 20, she is doing something extraordinary. Quite literally risking her own life, she's going back into the brothels to rescue other children from the fate she suffered.

This month, Marie Claire published Sreypov's story, along with a photo essay of her work inside one of Phnom Penh's most notorious brothels. See more photos from Sreypov's life here.


Abigail Pesta is an award-winning journalist who has lived and worked around the world. Currently she is the editor-at-large of Marie Claire. Previously Abby worked at Glamour, where she launched Mariane Pearl's popular column about women who are changing the world. She is a former editor at The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, and before that she worked in London for an international wire service. She has traveled the world -- climbing the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, motoring across Wales, bar-hopping in Shanghai with a minor-league Mafioso. She writes short stories for her website, Fine Words Butter No Parsnips.