Sunday, May 25, 2014
"What Do You Think it Means to Be Raped?" Le Thuy Ngoc Remembers Vietnam
Le Thuy Ngoc
I was born May 5, 1967. I came to the United States in 1981. We have six children in our family. My father was a businessman in Vietnam. We actually did well for a while under the Communists in a small town near Qui Nhon. We sold cassettes and music. We still could do that under the new Communist government. They came to our house to ask about our business. First we were ok. But after many months they came again and they said that some members of our family had been to the United States so we could not sell cassettes anymore. I remember now my mother telling me to get ready to leave Vietnam. I cried and didn't want to go, but she told me that she would join us all soon. I was unhappy about leaving because I would be leaving my friends and my mother behind. I was afraid also of leaving. Maybe something was warning me about what would happen.
We left on a boat at night. The first time we escaped, the weather was so bad on the ocean that we came back. And the second time we went we came back, too. The second time I told my friends that I was going away to the US. And they told other friends so we had to cancel that trip because too many people knew about it and my parents were angry that I had told people. We were supposed to say that I was going to visit my aunt.
The next time there wre forty-eight people on the boat with us. We ran out of water on the first day. And so after the first day we drank ocean water. Everyone on the boat got sick. I got sick and vomited constantly.
Then the Thai pirates stopped our boat. We were out of food and water. We tried to signal them an SOS with some white fabric that we had. We didn't know they were pirates. And they raped one lady on our boat after they came to us. The first time they were all right and they said they just wanted gold. But then on the second and the third day they stopped us again and again. They took us all off the boat except for one woman. They went in the boat and all of them raped her.
Then they took us to an island. Nobody else was on the island. There was no water on the island either. It was all dry.
They made us sit in one big circle. They picked out the women and they took some of them into the bushes to rape them. That was terrible.
I was just a skinny little kid then. Just a skinny little kid. And I didn't know anything. But they came and took me away and I was crying. I said I didn't want to go with them. I cried. But they took me anyway. And they ripped my clothes off. I was so little and I didn't know what they were doing to me. I was so skinny and I had no hair on my body even. I was so young. They grabbed me and took me into the bushes and then they hurt me bad. I wasn't just thinking of rape because I didn't really know what that was. But I thought they were trying to kill me. They didn't like me because my body was so skinny.
The men who were with us just had to stay in a circle and look at the ground when the pirates did this to the woman and the girls. And to me. To me. But they knew what was happening. I was just so scared at that time.
They did not kill any of us and they did not beat up on the men. When they were finished with us they left us alone on the island. I just had my underwear on after that. They stole our clothes when they left.
We then had to find something to eat and it was hard to live on the island. Then a few days later a Thai Navy ship came by with sailors on it. They picked us up and they treated us well. We were starving and they gave us food. Then they took us to Song Khla in Thailand.
I was in the boat people camp in Song Khla for many months. My uncle then sponsored us to come to California. I was surprised when I got here because everyone is so rich in America.
I spoke some English because I had learned it in Song Khla. In school I didn't do well at first. I didn't know how to dress and I didn't have nice clothes. The other students picked on me. There was one girl on the bus who always beat up on me because I dressed to badly. I guess I told the bus driver but she said she could not help me. You know, they pushed me and pulled my hair because I was so little, I guess. I was only about eighty pounds at the time.
Then after the eighth grade I went to high school and everything was better. I did well in school then. Now I am in the university. My mother is still in Vietnam and I write to her every day.
I am not that happy here, really, after what happened to me. How could I be happy? It was just too much for me. Last year I tried to kill myself again. I took too many pills and tried to kill myself. But I did not die. I don't know why.
My father does not treat me well. He never looked at me in the eye after what the Thai pirates did to me. So we are not very close.
Very few men understand a woman being raped. Very few. I ask them, "What do you think it means to be raped?" And they don't know. They don't understand. They just don't know.
If I had a chance to do everything all over again I would never leave Vietnam. Such bad things happened to me after I left.
I remember those pirates and I dream about them sometimes. I remember them even today.
I cannot be affectionate. I cannot hold hands with someone or even be romantic or think romantic thoughts.
I don't know about the future. I don't know if I'll try to kill myself again. Who can tell?