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Friday, 16 December 2016 03:18

Children of Abuse (part 4): People Who Take Advantage of 'Circumstances'

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 They are complex, nervous suspicious and in general quite withdrawn from people

In the last edition, I shared with you a story of Little White, a child who was raped at the tender age of five. She was already neglected as a child and had delayed mental development due to her that stage, she couldn't form a complete sentence when we welcomed her into our family.

After a year of love and endless patience and guidance from everybody in the family, she slowly begin to let go of all the pain and suffering she held inside. Slowly she begin to learn new skills, for the very elementary speaking and asking for things, through to learning her ABC's and even writing a few simple sentence, and playing and joking around with her sisters. When Tet rolled around, as per our guidelines and rules, we allowed for her to go home to her family.

One of the house rules: "Give each other positive words and vibes: Congratulate each other on your successes; apologize if you are in the wrong; thank each other for being your sisters

Little White's Fishing Pole

After a month, when she hadn't returned, our family made a trip out to her village to visit her. If it were even possible, she was in a more sorry state than we originally found her. On the other end of the spectrum, her grandmother was extremely cheerful.

"She kept bringing out food for us, and she was really happy. But do you know why she wanted to keep Little White from returning to us?" - questions one of the house mothers.

I've always had my suspicions that I could never voice out loud...after all, who could ever think like this?

"She boasted that there were still a few million dongs held by the district authorities. But she won't receive a dong unless Little White is with her".

One of the younger girls shares her private thoughts: I really like drawing and hope to be able to get into design. I'm really happy living here with this family

As it turns out, when the story of Little White was publicized over newspapers and the internet, many generous people from around the country donated a vast amount of money so that she could get the appropriate medical and psychological care. But Little White got to come home with us, and so the grandmother accepted a large chunk of that fund for herself, while the rest was kept by the authorities at the request of the donors. This was to ensure the money would be spread out over time so that Little White would have enough money for her treatment for many years to come.

Is it callousness or greed or just ignorance that make people like Little White's grandmother act that way?

Yet the reality is, this is not a lone case.

Bao An, a young child with Khmer roots from Soc Trang, abandoned by her mother from birth. It was her great grandmother, an aging woman on her last few legs of life that decided to take her home to raise her. It was one day when the child was taking a shower in their outback shower when she was sexually assaulted by a neighbour.

The mother went and sued, and eventually was 'compensated' 16 million dongs. She obviously kept that for herself.

And yet there are even cases where a mother will willingly try to sell her daughter's virginity. At the 'meeting spot', upon seeing that the child was actually not a virgin, they returned her without a cent (in fact, she had already been sexually abused previously). The child's family will then make a fuss and eventually settle for any form of 'compensation'.

Some of our girls have been forced to leave our family to go home with their moms to work in massage. It's not that the actual profession of giving massages is wrong or horrible, it's just that the reality of these work places tend to lead many girls astray. Especially girls who previously were sexually abused and have not received enough therapy and treatment, it is an extremely high-risk profession.

"She's still so young, what does she know?"

Every so often, there arises a case where a child actually looks for opportunities to play 'sex games', due to influences of their peers, and without enough guidance from their parents while they were growing up.

In the case of a child living in a shelter: 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.

Some notes exchanged between the girls: "Big sis! Being bigger doesn't mean you're ugly, so please don't starve yourself, because you look better when you're not stick thin"; "Thank you Big Sis for helping me over these past few months"; "You're 11 now Little Sis...wishing you success in your studies, so that we can study at university together!"

Right in the neighborhood where the shelter is located, there was an incident where two very young children, the tender age of 3 and 5 were sexually abused.

He was only 30 at the time. One afternoon, after drinking far too much, he sat there shirtless and in his shorts, enjoying the breeze. The two girls were no strangers to him, having lived in the neighborhood for years, and just like every other day, they climbed into his lap, laughing and giggling, giving each other what would've seemingly been innocent hugs and kisses.

But on this particular day, for whatever reason things were different. The younger child was dressed in a wife-beater shirt but was pant-less. With that, he picked her up, took her inside and closed the door. Luckily, the elder child ran home to tell her mother what had happened.

The whole neighborhood came pouring in. The police arrested him immediately. Such timing!....the child had been sexually abused, but not yet raped. But had the older child been just a little slower in alerting her mom, the result could have been much different.

Of course, there are further stories still, where you can't help but shake your head in disbelief: a child of 9 years old, raped. The perpetrator being a 15 year old. However, after investigating carefully, it turns out it wasn't the 15 year old but another child...a 10 year old.

The story goes: All the kids were playing and joking around with each other. The 10 year old got his flip flop stolen and hidden, with the deal that he had to do XXX before getting it back. With that, the two kids went to 'play' in the fields, where they were caught by their parents.

Our 10 -year old, the "Little Boss" had also brought along two of his friends, a 12 year old and a 15 year old. Because of their ages, the 10 and 12 year olds were treated as minors and were not arrested or held accountable for their actions.

"We asked them all: Do you know what you have done is wrong? That you shouldn't do it? That all replied: Why is is wrong? I see mom and dad do it the time, and it's always happening in the movies!" - Lawyer Tran Thi Thu Ha, from the juvenile court of Vietnam (South), recalls.

Myself....I've seen with my own eyes, where at a busy bus station in the middle of Saigon's center, a mother will just strip her young daughter of 2 or 3 completely naked, to change her clothes, in front of everyone, male or female. The mother, father and child all lived there, and so felt it was okay since everybody in that area knew each other. In fact, it was the kind of scenario where if the child wandered off for an hour or so at a time, they wouldn't worry. But who knows what can happen in that hour when a child is unsupervised.

Out in the village of V., there was reported a case where 2 families from the same neighborhood who would usually all play together. One of the families had a younger daughter aged 2 or 3. The other family had a son, about 4 years old. One weekend, the two mothers decided they needed a morning break, and so, they left their two children with a neighbor to babysit and headed out. When they came back, they saw a blanket on the bed, covering a squirming lump.

In shock, they ripped off the blanket, to find the two children had stripped naked, lying on top of one another, laughing and giggling, not really knowing what was happening. When asked, they replied they always see mom and dad sleep together and have relations, so they were just copying.

The game of 'monkey see, monkey do' in these cases are lucky that they occurred when the children are much younger, and are likely to forget as they grow older. However there have been cases where this hasn't been so.

Fingerprints from girls in the family, as well as visitors and sponsors. The tree symbolizes that together, there will be growth

Changing the "circumstances"

She was a single mother, working as a merchant, usually absent from her home for days at a time. The two siblings, a brother and sister, took care of themselves and each other at home. The mother never felt the need to worry about them.

Suddenly, the sister was pregnant, at the tender age of 11.

The perpetrator was her own brother, 15 years old.

The truth came out. Whenever the mother was away from home, especially during stormy weather, the two scared children would sleep together in the same bed. No one is entirely sure how their sexual relationship started, although they do remember it was when she was just turning 8, he was 12.

At first they didn't even realize what they were doing was wrong. It was only when the brother was a little bit older, a little bit wiser that he knew, but by then it was too late...they were far to involved.

In the cases where a relative or a very close person to the family abuses a child, there are never two identical scenarios, however they all do have one thing in common in that there was lack of adult supervision and education to the children, and hence, leading to the creating of a 'circumstance' where the children are left in vulnerable situations.

A young girl of 9 years old, raped by her own father. The mother sued, and he was thrown in prison. Due to her personal circumstances of being disabled and unable to care for the child as well as she would like, the child has been left in the care of a monastery, where she will be safe, and cared for.

One of the directors of the shelters shares a story of when a child was rescued on time. The story also involves a family where the mother was constantly away from home, and it was only the father and daughter living at home alone in a makeshift tent set up next to someone's house so they could use the house as one of their 'walls'. The father and daughter slept in the same bed.

The father would not allow the child to be moved to better circumstances, to give her a chance at education, a chance at life. He would argue: "You are ridiculous! I have some form of education, how can incest ever occur here?!"

"I replied to him: Yes, sure, but your daughter is fast approaching puberty. We're out in the middle of nowhere, and you are constantly drinking. You may be in the right frame of mind now, but who knows when the alcohol takes may be with your daughter, but you think you're with your wife...that's when it's all over" - The Director retells her story.

It took 3 visits, along with assistance from the local authorities, but eventually he agreed that perhaps this is what was best for his daughter, and off she went to live in the shelter, away for potential harm.

In our home, the girls do cross stitch portraits to sell and raise money. These other drawings are from the girls, to thank the people who care for them, as well as to each other with words of kindness. There are 'mailboxes' where girls can also write letters to each other.

Usually when these horrible things occur, it's very easy for people to come to the conclusion that this is all due to the 'circumstances' from where the girls come from. And sure, there is some truth that the 'circumstances' do lead to predators taking advantage and striking. But there is also some social responsibility, where the parents need to be educated on their 'circumstances', and what they can do to change, if not remove themselves completely from them, leaving their children safe from the risk of being abused. Parents need to firmly close and lock the door on opportunists who seek to abuse children.

By Hoàng Xuân, Ảnh: Phạm An/ Trí Thức Trẻ

Translated by Jacqueline Huynh. The Vietnamese version in OBV website entitled: "Những Đứa Trẻ Bị Xâm Hại (Kỳ 4): Những Kẻ Cơ Hội Dán Nhãn Hoàn Cảnh"

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