I came back to the House this morning. Some chickens were foraging for food on the ground, while the fish swam in their pool and the pigeons huddled together in our garden covered by fresh green grass and colorful flowers. We sat talking under the shade our our leafy plants, waiting for our children to come home from school.
They came back, like a flock of young birds. Quickly dropping off their school bags, these tweeting birds started circling a real bird: a parrot, probably the same age as the children.
They rushed to feed the parrot food and water, yelling with excitement and urging the parrot to eat. How wonderful it is to watch the natural 'maternal instinct' come out in these girls! Despite having been through spiritual, emotional and physical trauma, they still have the longing and desire to love, and to care of other smaller and weaker creatures. This is considered to be a natural instinct for all animals....then why did it not apply to their fathers, uncles, stepfather, neighbours who instead of looking after them, had abused them instead?
She was abused by her own biological father at the age of 16, maybe 17. "She was really pretty, with hair that cascaded down her back not unlike that of an angel" remembers a staff member from a shelter just outside Ho Chi Minh City.
She also had a really beautiful name, meaning a bright and beautiful day. You would think that parents who name a child with such a meaningful moniker would be that with a strong education, or at the very least, a strong moral.
But no. Despite having been born and raised in District -- an area not that far from the city centre of Saigon, her family was far from civilized. When we arrived at her house to collect precious paperwork, her birth certificate, so that we could process and accept her into our home, her mother dug full a box infested with dead cockroaches, until finding her paperwork, almost destroyed by rodents.
We'll call her Angel for this story!
"Miss, can I leave her here with you, I'm never coming back"
Angel was a beautiful girl, but was a little slow on the developmental side. When she was taken into the first shelter, the sisters there had to teach her literally everything from the very beginning. She couldn't speak, but was always smiling. Her chores such as cleaning vegetables, cleaning the house....they were done very carefully, but also very slowly.
When her mother passed away, Angel was left alone with her father.
And it was then, that he started to rape her.
A trip to visit the family of a survivor, to talk to them about the option they may have to remove their child from an area of such high risk of being abused
On this particular day, before heading out to her tutoring class, she kept reminding her mother over and over to make sure to put on lots of layers of pants for her. The weather in Saigon was balmy, for what reason would she have to wear multiple pants, especially as she was well toilet trained. Concerned, the mother asked her why, to which she replied: "that man (the husband of her tutor) always takes my pants off....please put on extra pants so he can't take them off!
In Vietnam, according to the statistics from relevant authorities, on average every year sees over 1,200 children sexually abused, with another 2,000 cases of child abuse. In particular, the incidences of children being sexually abused continues to rise, with the cases also increasing in severity and complicated nature.
Abandoned by her father, and a merchant mother trying to make ends meet in a town far away, she was sent to live with her mother's sister and her husband. On one particular day, a neighbor happened to see the child and her uncle standing, with her in front bent forward, while he pressed his body against her, running his hands up and down her back. The neighbor immediately reported this to the authorities. And just in the nick of time: The uncle, caught in a compromising position, was 'only' performing lewd acts, but had not yet raped, nor had intentions to rape the child. She was only 12.
Up to 90% of incidences where young children are abused come from adults already known to the family, and usually occur because these vile adults have gained the trust of the family to have access to this child alone. Many perpetrators are patient, choosing and grooming the child very carefully, all the while gaining the child's parents/family's trust. Why do they put so much effort into these perverted activities? Obviously because they don't want to be caught. All of their extracurricular activities need to be done with utmost secrecy.
60% of children who are abused or raped grow up with abnormal behavior patters. They are complex, nervous suspicious and in general quite withdrawn from people
I have already shared with you some disturbing stories of children who have detrimental side effects from being victims of abuse: from mental anguish to inappropriate behavior, such as one of our youngest survivors, who at 5 years old would only want to watch movies with 'naked people', or our 8 year olds who wanted to drink wine with every meal. But is was our 'Little White' that captured the compassion of all the sisters in the house, a child whose body was so violated she was left with a broken pelvis, and of course....a broken spirit.
The first few months of living in the house, Little White didn't open for mouth to say anything. She would sit, curled up in a ball on a chair all day, her eyes staring but not seeing anything. After every meal, out of pure habit, she would go through the trash to look for more food. If she needed to use the restroom, she would crawl into a cupboard, or a hole in the wall....and never use the bathroom, despite being taught over and over.
At 5 years old, she could not complete a full sentence. Throughout the whole first year, the sisters patiently and tirelessly tried to teach her...by the end of it, she only absorbed exactly 3 new words, and 4 or 5 numbers and letters.
"The strangest point of all, was that she was unable to express the most basic of commands or needs, such as 'hungry', 'thirsty'....but she was able to swear and cuss that would put a sailor to shame" - House Mother.
When we accept girls into our family, they not only have a chance at education, but they get to explore extracurricular interests, such as drawing/arts and other creative outlets
"A child of only 12, with an impoverished background, was placed in the care of a shelter where she was ultimately raped. Her mother withdrew her immediately and brought her home to stay with her family. And here, in the family home, she was raped again by her uncle..."
A brief introduction
Those inflicted with the sickness that is pedophilia are only attracted to pre-pubescent children; yet the majority of the cases that we have been confronted with are even morbid and obscene...where age, size, and gender doesn't matter, but the need to attack and control a victim is what drives their animal urges. A victim could be anyone: a child, a teenager, a school kid, an adult, male or female....when we are facing such depravity, no child is safe, no child is an exception to the cruelty.
The pain of a victim of sexual abuse will carry on far longer than her childhood years
Our family home came across a case of two sisters, both sexually abused. The stories that they would tell you are sometimes too real, too heinous, too evil to believe.
Let's start off with a brief introduction to our family:
Most of the girls here are as young as 2 and 3 years old and range through to prepubescent years, about 11 or 12. Disheveled hair, sweat dripping off every crevice from playing and running in the sun. One child sits with a head full of lice. One child tries to hide the evidence of her nightly bed wetting problem, but the stench of urine in her clothes, her bedding, herself...it doesn't go away. The bulk of the girls come from poor families, all of them underweight with darkened skin from the harsh Vietnam sun. Their clothes are ripped, faded, stained. They look like typical street kids. The kind you see lingering at the markets, in the alleyways of the ghetto, by the rice fields.....
On Dec. 15, Seattle natives Thuy Do and her husband, Jesse Robbins, met Linh Doan, director of One Body Village (OBV) in Cambodia. They had a long day ahead. They would visit two villages, where Do, a doctor, would be examining 30 patients. The villages stand in stark contrast to the modernity of nearby Phnom Penh.
Dear Father Martino!
I have been trying to calling you for the last few weeks but it always goes directly to voicemail! In case you don't remember who I am, I am a huynh truong from Doan Xavie Can of Seattle, Wa and I was the one who called you in the middle of the night last year to ask you a few questions so I could write my paper on OBV, which I received an A on!
The final part of my unforgettable interview with Father Martino Thong Nguyen (Cha Thong One Body Village) on "Heart To Heart with Kristine Sa" will air this coming Sunday, Nov. 21st only on SBTN. Featuring original music by musician Tony T Nguyen and myself. Here is a clip of Father Martino's haunting story...