Township resident writes memoir on trauma and healing

Chanty Jong, of Washington Township, released her memoir Running Toward the Guns: A Memoir of Escape from Cambodia at the end of last year. The story takes readers through her traumatic experiences as a young child and her journey of healing after moving to America.

Washington Township resident Chanty Jong has released a new memoir about her traumatic past and journey to healing called “Running Toward the Guns: A Memoir of Escape from Cambodia.” 

The memoir was written with help from her family physician, Dr. Lee Ann Van Houten-Sauter D.O., who lives in Williamstown. 

“My mission is to help people understand the genocide in Cambodia, the history I know I lived through, and for them to know my experiences with trauma that affects me every day,” Jong said.

Jong has been speaking at schools and libraries across South Jersey in the past few years to talk about the struggles she faced while living through the massacre of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. After escaping to America, Jong settled in a refugee house and received sponsorship through a Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania. She then met her husband Alain, 55, and moved to Vineland, before settling down with her two children in Washington Township in 1999.

“I have spoken in the library and many times, people ask me to write a memoir so I can spread more awareness of genocide and to spread awerenss of how I healed myself from those flashbacks,” Jong explained.

For years, she struggled silently with PTSD, because she feared the stigma attached to mental health issues. It wasn’t until Van Houten-Sauter reassured Jong her story could be helpful to so many people that the latter finally decided to look toward healing and complete her story.

“I was so scared, and I didn’t want to expose myself that I had PTSD,” Jong recalled. “I told my doctor I didn’t want to share about my PTSD, but I wanted to have a book for my kids. She told me she would love to help … She said this story has a lot of potential to help other people, and that I had to put it out there.

“Without her I could not have finished the book.” 

The original story began as a keepsake for her children to help them understand and remember where their mother came from and the struggles she had to endure. Unfortunately for Jong, the writing constantly resulted in traumatic flashbacks of the devastating situations she lived through. That made the book difficult to write and complete.   

“All I did was dance and sing until my memory cleared my mind,” Jong said. “I told myself it wasn’t good enough, because the memories came back over and over. That’s when I started my inner-self healing journey.”

After years of combating her flashbacks with medications and therapy, Jong discovered meditation and finally found peace. 

“One day I came downstairs after meditating and screamed at my husband,  ‘I am so free,’” Jong remembered. “My mind was clear and I felt light and there was no cloudy, heavy sadness in my mind anymore.

The story details all aspects of Jong’s life, and she is hopeful it will resonate with those who may be struggling with trauma or PTSD, and show them how she overcame a life of hardships. 

“I am not an expert, teacher, or professional trying to heal or persuade anyone to follow me,” Jong stated. “I just like to share my personal survival life experiences with others.”

The memoir is available for purchase on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Running-Toward-Guns-Memoir-Cambodia/dp/1476682534 and on the Barnes and Noble website.