Did you know that we also help children who have been traumatized by sexual abuse and assault?
Rape and incest is a plague that grips people in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, where the majority of its victims are women and children (but let's not forget about the boys and men!). Extreme poverty, lack of education, and what seems like the absence of moral and family values suppresses any liberating #metoo social movement, especially in rural communities.
Children in particular are silenced by shame, guild and fear. Did you know that there does not exist child protection services in Vietnam? No social work? Minimal legal help? No psychiatry practice? What little psychological counseling that is offered barely scratches the surface, while we all know that the scars cut deep. The justice system is as twisted as the day is long. Greed, selfishness, and a turn-a-blind-eye mentality of so hardwired into the way of life in these countries.
In Vinh Long Province, our volunteers experienced four home visits. They met four children living in different conditions with one shared connection between them - rape and sexual abuse at very young ages (even as young as 4). Among them was young girl who was raped by her neighbour every day after school and was forced to have an abortion at 8 years old. Last November, our staff stood up for her in court and put her perpetrator behind bars for life.
We support these children in the community for many reasons, family and cultural beliefs among the most important ones. Some families believe that allowing us to take care of their children is also a form of selling them. Others simply need their children at home to work and support the family, even if they're just 10 years old.
Even though they do not live with us, we continue to offer these children with psychological and behavioural care. We want to maintain meaningful connections with all of these children and their families to build trust and kinship and hopefully guide them towards health, healing, and a brighter future.
H. is very well loved by her grandparents at home and teachers at school. Despite a very traumatic past, she excels in school and thrives at home. She is one of the very few children that have a supportive family and we are happy to help her in her community!
K.A. is 12 years old and quit grade 5 to help her mother sell lottery tickets, making around $3.5 USD per day. They live in a less than 100 sq ft cot next to a waste dump. The day before, she ate her neighbour's scraps and got extremely sick. She walked herself to the pharmacy and spent her last dollars to buy medicine. When she's not selling lottery tickets, she spends her days at home alone doing chores, walking to the market or peddling her bike 3 km to receive a bag of donated rice. She spoke with much wisdom and said, "I'm just not good at school. I'll wait until I'm older to learn a skill so that I can help my family".
N. is now 18 and works at a local sandwich shop. She quit school at grade 10 to work so that she could send her little brother to school instead. She hopes to learn sewing eventually to support herself and her family.
C. was 4 years old when she was violently raped by a 50 year old man in her neighbourhood. Already developmentally delayed, being a child victim of rape only made things a thousand times worse. When she first came to live with OBV, there was a dimness in her eyes, bleakness in her expression, and listlessness in the way she carried herself. After a year with OBV, she was so vibrant, cheerful and quite clever! She even dominated everyone at monopoly! We sent her to a special needs school and she received the care and attention that she needed. Her grandmother demanded her back "so she doesn't lose touch with her roots". Now, she wanders aimlessly around rice fields in her village while her grandmother collects wheat. She's 10 years old now and no longer goes to school. Her speech that day was just as incoherent as the day we first met her. As heartbreaking and frustrating as it is, we can't force the families to give up their children.