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Sexual-assault victims choose to remain silent amid backlash on social media

Many travelers have told VietNamNet that they had been victims of sexual assault but later decided not to report their cases for fear of being ridiculed and blamed.
Dinh Hang, a well-known travel blogger, photographer

On September 14, T.N.L, 29, travelled to Ha Giang from Hanoi. L stayed at the Hoang Su Phi bungalow in Nam Hong hamlet in Thong Nguyen commune in Hoang Su Phi district. 

At dawn on September 18, she was sleeping when a man came into her room and forced her to have sex. She contacted the owners of the homestay and the local authorities for help.

On September 22, Hoang Su Phi Police said that they arrested Trieu Ta Menh, born in 1991, a local man, to investigate the alleged rape case.

The woman then shared her story on newspapers and social media, showing her determination to cooperate with the police to bring the case to light.

However, rude comments then appeared on social networks. They mocked and blamed her for the case. They commented that it was the victim to blame as she showed a lot of cleavage, drank with strangers, and did not lock the door after going to bed.

Some days later, she had to hide information and her posts on her personal page, and set a limit on the number of people who could make comments.

L is not alone. Others who have been sexually assaulted also faced ridicule.

Thanh Thao, who has been to more than 10 countries, said she once faced danger during a trip to India in 2019.

An Indonesian friend introduced a guesthouse to Thao. After leaving her luggage in a room, she went out and returned at 10pm. The manager of the guesthouse invited her for a drink. She felt a bit worried as the guesthouse was deserted, with no guests.

At 11pm, she was startled when seeing the manager entering the room with a fan. He said he would sleep in her room.

Thao showed her disagreement and asked the man to leave. Some minutes later, the man went downstairs to get more things. Thao then tried to close the door and messaged her Indonesian friend, asking for help. Several minutes later, the manager, who appeared to have been contacted by the Indonesian, came back and took the fan away.

“He left but I still felt scared,” she said. She became even more scared about the drink. "If it had contained anesthetics, I can't imagine what would have happened,” she said.

Silence

Thao has a strong personality who dares to step out of her safety zone and give up a job which brought high income, braving her family’s objections and fears to follow her dream of discovering the world.

However, though three years have elapsed since the accident occurred in India, Thao is still not ready to make her story public. She asked to keep her personal information secret.

“When sharing my story about the solo travel journey, I received a lot of indecent negative comments. I am still not ready enough to speak out,” she said.

Dinh Hang, a well-known travel blogger, photographer and author of "Too young to die: the American trip" and other books, who spent 10 years travelling around the world, recently related her story that she was nearly raped while hitchhiking. She spoke to VietNamNet and on her Tiktok channel.

Hang said she thought for a long time before telling her story because she anticipated that she would receive negative comments, laughter, and even assaults from the community.

Two days after she told her story, her video received 1.3 million views, 600 comments and 500 shares. 

Some of the comments were rude.

“I thought carefully and prepared well psychologically, so I was unaffected by the negative comments. I was really grateful that many strangers were sympathetic and stood by me to respond to these negative comments,” she said.

“However, I am sure that many other victims still feel scared by assaults by other people,” she added.

Some years ago, she spent time to donate to an organization that rescued and took care of women who are victims of sexual assaults. 

She realized that victims dare not speak out about their problems because they feel scared and shameful, and think no one will believe them or help them reclaim justice. They also may be afraid of being blamed and attacked, she said.

Linh Trang

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