CAMPAIGN AGAINST  CHILD SEX EXPLOITATION AND TRAFFICKING

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Sunday, 19 February 2017 01:59

Children of abuse (Part 6): "Miss, can I leave her here with you, I'm never coming back"

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

Hearing of this atrocity, Angel's half-brother on her mother's side (born and raised in another district) came looking for the father, wielding a knife, ready to strike. The depraved man ran and disappeared.

"This is a case that I'll never be able to forget" - A manager at a shelter where Angel was taken in.
"When she was here, her brother would often come to visit. Although she wasn't a child anymore, he would come with cakes and fruit for her and insist that whatever she needed, he'll make sure he'll buy it and bring it to her. He was covered in tattoos, but was surprisingly polite and well behaved.....

....And then one day....usually he would come alone. But this day was different. This day he was escorted by police, even though they kept their distance, seating themselves just outside, while the two siblings sat inside to have their chat.

That time, the two siblings spent more of their time quietly sobbing and hugging each other. After he wiped away his tears, he turned to me and said: "Miss, can I leave her here with you, I'm never coming back"

It's been many years since that happened, but when we are reminded of that story, there is never a dry eye in the audience.

"Poor thing...He was trying so hard to make sure she could get her identification papers done....how did it all go wrong?" - A carer at the shelter.

I sit there, silently. The shelter's house mother also sits silently. The story is too painful to speak of.

We could only guess what happened. Living as a thug, it seemed quite obvious that Angel's older brother had committed a crime, and was caught and convicted. That was the only conclusion we could come up with that resulted in him ending his visitations to his beloved sister so abruptly.

A life of such misery....A father whom acted worse than an animal and could abuse his own child...and an older brother from the same mother who lived on the street, where despite his efforts to care for his kid sister, had also failed her.

When she turned 18, as per the house rules, Angel had no choice but to leave the shelter. There was no one left that she could consider 'family'. And sending her back to her father was completely not and option. The shelter staff considered every option possible for her, and after pleading with district police and authorities, they were finally able to place her into an orphanage. There, she would help with the staff in caring for the children.

The girls are always open to play games, especially with kindhearted volunteers

Our House Mother can't miss out on the fun and games!

At the start, the orphanage staff really valued her presence and positive working nature. But after a while....a young lady with developmental issues...it became harder to be patient with her, especially when the work required all team members to be fast paced and ready. After one particular incident, Angel struck back at the staff. It was this that decided her fate. She had to leave the orphanage.

In the end, Angel found a place just outside of Ho Chi Minh City, a shelter caring for the elderly. She was accepted as a kitchenhand, and thank heavens, there hasn't been a negative word about her, or from her, since.

Big sis, Little sis. At our 'shelters', we live the way a real family would

The ups and downs of Ngan Linh

Ngan Linh is a name that will never be forgotten at this particular shelter. Just like the story of Angel, she was not fortunate enough to be raised with a family that provided the love and shelter every child should have. It even got to the point where even while she was being raised an cared for in the shelter, her mother would come and demand to take her home. The house mothers had no choice but to agree. And with that, the mother sent her to start her career as a 'massage therapist'.

At the start, Ngan Linh would still come back and visit everyone at the shelter, showing off the new jewellry that she had bought with hard earned money -- about 10million a month (this was 5-6 years ago, a time when that value of money was considered a high end salary). She was 16 or 17 at the time.

Her parents remained.....such role models. Gambling addicts, the mother take her daughter's hard earned money as offerings to the Gambling Gods to change their luck. It was around this time that Ngan Linh surrendered to the call of drugs.

We thought that would be the worst of it.

But it never is just that easy. Not so long after, she reported back to the people that cared for her at the shelter that she had managed the impossible: she had become a self-sufficient success!

There was nothing more anyone could wish or hope for her!

As everyone wished her well, she suddenly disappeared for a few years, with no contact or further reports on her life.

Indeed, the first thing anyone heard about her after several years had passed was that she had moved to Taiwan to become a 'working girl'.

And with that, every effort and ounce of love that had been put into supporting Ngan Linh was considered a lost cause.

The girls gather to work on the garden: picking out weeds, planting flowers.....

The older girls gather to teach a new girl how to read and write, in our house in Cambodia

That still wasn't the end of the surprises, though! Just as all the staff was beginning to move on from what they considered failing one of their girls, they received a phone call from her, all the way from Taiwan. She was well, although was bored with her life after successfully removing herself away from drugs, and without a job or a career path, she thought 'why not?' and took up her job in Taiwan. However, little did she know that by taking up such a 'career' that a year on she would meet someone who would take her on as a wife. Not only that, but she had recently gave birth to a healthy boy, and was calling her old family to share her news. Not only that, she had picked up Mandarin, and was getting ready to start work at an electronics company.

"I'm actually quite happy and lucky,' she said," remembers one of the shelter staff, through tears.

This summer, the girls were taken on a trip to the jungles of Tra Su. After this trip, they will write reflective pieces and submit to the House Mother

A 3-day mini holiday out to the Western region of Vietnam -- their reward for their high grades and good behavior, which they readily accepted over the Summer Break

For all the stories where a child has been given a helping hand in life, only to then be dragged through the mud again like in the case of Ngan Linh, according to the expertise is fairly commonplace when working with children who have been victims of sex abuse.

Because as they grow, they become aware of the severity of their past and what it means, and without the appropriate support system, the right psychological support to help them overcome their pasts, the victims of child sex abuse are at extremely high risk of taking darker paths in life than their peers who did not have to go through such trauma.

There will always be many organizations, many shelters, many sponsors and donors and volunteers who will open up their arms and hearts to help as many victims as possible and to remove them from areas of high risk, and provide them with a loving home, an education and love.

But it's never easy to try and replicate the love of someone's mother -- at least, a mother who has the natural instinct to love and nurture her child. A mother who will provide the family and shelter that will shape a young girl's life from the very beginning.

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 6): 'Cô Cho Con Gửi Em, Con Sẽ Không Bao Giờ Về Nữa'"

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