Somaly Mam’s astonishing personal story has been used to raise millions of dollars for victims of sex trafficking. Now it seems that the story may not have been entirely true.
Mam was born in a Cambodian village where she was sold into sex slavery by someone she called “grandfather.” She escaped and managed to create the Somaly Mam Foundation, one of the main fundraisers for Agir Pour Les Femmes en Situation Précaire, or AFESIP (Acting For Women In Dangerous Situations), an organization that helps rescue women from sex trafficking rings. She has become a household name in the nonprofit world, captivating audiences with tales of her bravery.
— Chandrapal S Bhasker (@ChandraSBhasker) May 29, 2014
Wednesday, Somaly Mam Foundation Executive Director Gina Reiss-Wilchins announced in a statement that after they hired a law firm to investigate Mam's background, she had resigned from the foundation.
One such story involves Mam's daughter. Mam's ex-husband Pierre Legros came forward and denied her allegations that their daugher had been kidnapped as a result of her activism. According to Legros, their daughter eloped with her boyfriend.
Another alleged fabrication is Somana's (Long Pros) story. In a detailed and heart-wrenching account given the New York Times and "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Pros talked about being a child sex slave and having her eye gouged out for refusing to perform sexual acts. She recounted the story of how Mam saved her. Pros' parents have spoken out, saying her eye was removed because of a nonmalignant tumor when she was 13 years old.
Goodwin Procter LLP, a U.S.-based law firm, began the investigation under retainer from the Somaly Man Foundation in March. Details of the investigation have not been released.
“While we are extremely saddened by this news, we remain grateful to Somaly’s work over the past two decades and for helping to build a foundation that has served thousands of women and girls, and has raised critical awareness of the nearly 21 million individuals who are currently enslaved today,” Reiss-Wilchins said in the statement.
Although the statement offered no specifics about Man’s life story, it did announce that Somana (Long Pros) would no longer be affiliated with the organization.
Read the full Newsweek piece here.