The call for help reached Blue Dragon early last year. It was gut-wrenching.
In the remote hills of Bac Kan province in northern Vietnam, a sexual assault had been reported to the police. The victim, Xi, was a 7 year-old girl and the offender was a child himself – he had just turned 15.
Both children had grown up in extreme poverty. Both are members of an ethnic minority group living far from government services, schools, and jobs.
This crime shattered their small community, where rape is a taboo topic and there is little understanding of children’s rights and the law.
Blue Dragon was called upon to provide legal representation to Xi and her family. Straight away we knew they would need much more than that.
Experiencing such a devastating incident means that they need long-term counselling to cope with the trauma, as well as financial and material assistance.
Over the past year, we have helped the family and the community to start recovering from this horror. And this week we stood in court representing Xi against her teenage abuser, who was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Because he is a juvenile, the sentencing was relatively light for a crime of this severity. An adult could have received life in prison.
This is a case where there will be no tidy ending; no satisfactory resolution. Xi and her family have strong support from Blue Dragon and their community, but will always live in the shadow of this abuse.
Her abuser, too, will live with the guilt of his actions all his life. In any crime where children are the perpetrators, punishment is never a satisfactory resolution. What drove this boy to commit such an act? What has happened to him in his own life that he would do this to another? Sadly, there are no easy answers.
Although the court case is resolved and justice has been done, the lives of Xi, her family, and her abuser will be tainted forever.
Life doesn’t always give us happy endings or silver linings, so we must be strong for those who are hurting. We must do our best to care for others even when we know our effort may not bring complete healing.
And so it is with Xi. We cannot undo what has been done. We can only do our best to create a much better future for her to grow into.