Greene, Roberta R.

Resilience and Healing Among Cambodian Survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime

Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work


In this article the author presents a qualitative study about resilience and healing among Cambodian survivors of the communist Khmer Rouge regime. The database of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) was used to analyze 30 stories of people who survived but lost family members during the Khmer Rouge regime. The participants acted as civil parties in the Cambodian tribunal involving a trial of “Duch,” the head of Tuol Sleng prison or (s21), where survivors’ relatives were interrogated, tortured, and killed. Participation in the DC-Cam investigations and in the trial were seen as healing, resiliency factors. Resilience is a person–environment concept that addresses how people and societies overcome/recover from adverse or traumatic events. Resilience was revealed here through people's narratives of critical events that occurred at the personal, interpersonal, sociocultural, and societal levels. Thus, the participants’ stories allow us to hear the “truth” of these experiences, how they have made meaning of them, and how they mustered their personal and environmental resources to deal with overwhelming demands. Findings suggest that participants attained closure and a sense of justice as a result of their interacting with DC-Cam staff and giving testimony to the tribunal.