Long called Hagar’s hotline sometime in September 2015, requesting financial support for her to undergo abortion. Her boyfriend had abandoned her after learning about her pregnancy and she didn’t want her parents to find out. She was aware of the shame it would cause if the news spread to her community. Hagar provided her with information about the potential mental and physical health consequences and advised her on other options to consider. A month later, Long called back and said she had decided to keep her baby and hoped to get further support from Hagar.
Hagar staff immediately supported Long in getting regular check-ups in the hospital, without which her lack of amniotic fluid could have resulted in stillbirth. Thankfully she delivered a healthy baby girl. However, Long went through serious postnatal depression, isolating herself and refusing any social interaction. She did not seem to have any feelings while telling Hagar’s psychologist about terrible things that happened to her in the past.
Long revealed how she was initially trafficked to China for labor. She was forced to serve in a karaoke bar without any pay. She managed to escape and come back to Vietnam but she was met with an even more traumatic experience- while walking along the streets in Hanoi, she was mobbed by a group of men. She was badly beaten and raped.
A local NGO helped Long take it up to Court and the perpetrators were charged to pay the damages to Long’s family. However, they only got a tenth of what was promised. Not only was the money insufficient to help Long recover, it also made the situation worse. People in Long’s community looked down on them for seemingly having gained a profit after selling sex and they became the subject of gossip. The stigma and discrimination seriously affected Long’s family, destroying their relationships. The conflict also worsened with the news of Long’s new baby girl.
With everything that she experienced, it was clear that Long needed intensive trauma-counselling and recovery support. Hagar counsellors and case managers assisted Long and her baby as they stayed at the Recovery Centre, creating trauma-focused activities that helped Long open up and regain her confidence. Slowly, she was also able to build relationships with other women in the centre who had similar experiences. In a few months, case managers could see signs of decreased trauma.
The happiest part of her recovery was when she began to develop a real connection with her baby, which she never felt before. She would feel worried if she didn’t hear the baby kicking. She would deliberately wave away negative thoughts thinking that would affect her baby. She attended a workshop on taking care of new-born babies and actively asked a lot of questions. The day when she found out her baby was a girl, she felt so upset thinking about how weak and vulnerable being a girl is. But today, she loves her baby more than anything.
“I usually don’t like kids but I don’t know why when I saw the new-born baby in the hospital, I was so attracted to her and I couldn’t stop smiling. It was so fortunate that I contacted Hagar. Thanks to you I was able to keep my baby.”
“I will try to think positively because I don’t want my baby to feel the sadness.”
Despite the terrible events happened to her, Long has recovered to some extent and is now totally focusing on and enjoying her baby. Her new-found dedication to being a good mother is truly inspirational. She always has the support of Hagar staff who are committed to support her and her baby, for as long as it takes.
*Hagar pursues the highest degree of care and protection for its clients; names have been changed and images do not necessarily reflect the individual profiled.