Expats in Vietnam shocked by sexual violence reports

Published:  15 Nov at 6 PM
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Tagged: China, Teach Abroad
Over the past few months, no less than 18 reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence have been uploaded to Hanoi’s online expat forum Hanoi Massive.

Hanoi’s expat community is used to a peaceful lifestyle in the city, with females comfortable with walking alone and no aggressive behaviour on the streets or in the bars. Sadly, over the last few months, everything has changed following no less than 18 online reports on a local expat forum describing sexual harassment and violent attacks on lone expat women.

One victim, Elizabeth Lockard, had spent five years working in China before transferring to Hanoi two years ago to teach at one of the city’s international schools. She’d felt perfectly safe in China, and saw no reason to expect Hanoi would be any different. Last April, two men chased her whilst she was riding her bike, pulling up in heavy traffic and groping her. She lost control of her bike and fell heavily, suffering bruising and scratches.

Five months later, she was grabbed whilst walking by a man who dragged her onto his bike and demanded sex. A passer-by saw her struggling to get away, and rushed to her assistance. Lockard didn’t report either assault to the police but, when another group of three women walking in a small street were assaulted by a man who grabbed at their clothing, a police report was made.

Other reports by women who’d been assaulted described groping by taxi and motorbike taxi drivers. Seven more women posted online that they’d been chased by men on motorbikes and grabbed violently. None of the victims could give any reason for the sudden surge of sexual violence towards expat women.

In Vietnamese law, sexual harassment is a violation of a public order, and can include rude words, gestures, provocative behaviour and ‘insulting the honour and dignity of others’. Those convicted face fines, whilst sexual assaults are only prosecuted if over 11 per cent of bodily injuries to the victim are identified by medical professionals.

The sudden surge in sexual harassment attacks on foreign women has caused local police to step up patrols, but a local official told Hanoi’s expat media he’s only had one complaint from three foreign women. He added than an investigation is ongoing, but victims are concerned that, in spite of being approached, various foreign embassies in Hanoi seem unwilling to help.
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