(UPDATED 2015-12-09) Somaly Mam resigns from her foundation amid investigation into lies

Posted: June 1, 2014 in human trafficking

(PLEASE READ UPDATE BELOW) Somaly Mam, award-winning crusader for victims of sex trafficking and author of the book The Road of Lost Innocence, has resigned from the foundation bearing her name, and an internal investigation has been conducted to verify claims that substantial parts of her story about being a sex-trafficking victim are not true.  Newsweek published a cover story in May 2014 that reported questions about her experience as a sex-trafficking victim.  A statement on the Somaly Mam Foundation home page confirms the investigation and Mam’s resignation.

It was shocking and disappointing to read these reports about Somaly Mam.  As someone who wants to see slavery ended, but who has never experienced it, I’ve looked to people like Mam to be the voice for this effort.  People who have been through such cruelty and then turn their experience of suffering and struggle toward helping other victims are powerful in getting the word out.  I rely on their voice, and expect their stories to be true.

I have Somaly Mam’s book, The Road of Lost Innocence, included in my list of non-fiction books currently, and will consider removing it if time continues to bear out the accusations that have been made.  However, since the investigation by Somaly Mam foundation does not at this point refute the reports by Newsweek, preliminarily it seems the accusations are valid.

Although the revelation that Somaly Mam has fabricated serious parts of her autobiography does not change the fact that girls are being helped by Somaly Mam’s efforts, and the work of her foundation, it harms the perceived integrity of people like her that are raising millions of dollars in the work against slavery.  People like me who try to raise awareness and encourage financial support of organizations like the foundation she was a part of, and others who do much more than I, need to know that the people on the front lines are telling the truth.

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December 9, 2015 – Update

Somaly Mam has responded to the allegations against her in three ways that I’m aware of:  (1) She  refuted the lies and inaccuracies in a September 2014 article in Marie Claire “I didn’t lie.”  (2) She published an open letter in December 2014 calling the statements against her “inaccurate.”  (3) More importantly, she proved her commitment to the specific women in her care, as well as the larger cause of assisting victims of sex trafficking, by continuing the work in the face of a storm of criticism, and that possibly unfounded.  Her organization, The New Somaly Mam Fund, includes some leaders and board members from the former organization, which leads me to believe not everyone previously involved with her believed the story that led to her downfall.  Interestingly, although Marie Claire’s interview mentions that Newsweek and the bombshell article’s author stood by their original story, Newsweek itself published an article about Somaly Mam’s new work.

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Comments
  1. Carl says:

    Somaly Mam has responded to the allegations against her in three ways that I’m aware of: (1) She refuted the lies and inaccuracies in a September 2014 article in Marie Claire “I didn’t lie.” (2) She published an open letter in December 2014 calling the statements against her “inaccurate.” (3) More importantly, she proved her commitment to the specific women in her care, as well as the larger cause of assisting victims of sex trafficking, by continuing the work in the face of a storm of criticism, and that possibly unfounded. Her organization, The New Somaly Mam Fund, includes some leaders and board members from the former organization, which leads me to believe not everyone previously involved with her believed the story that led to her downfall. Interestingly, although Marie Claire’s interview mentions that Newsweek and the bombshell article’s author stood by their original story, Newsweek itself published an article about Somaly Mam’s new work.

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