Story of B

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The social media boom has given rise to multiple prostitution rings in Vietnam. Sex traffickers can operate risk-free by allowing their clients to anonymously select and rate any girls they want on adult forums, social media groups, or instant messaging services. As demand increases, the traffickers constantly hunt for young girls under the age of 18, and even as young as 14. This situation is causing an alarming surge in sexual exploitation of minors.

Young girls are forced out of their own homes and into the hands of sex traffickers due to lack of education, shattered families, and societal ignorance. The promise of a high income entices them into sex work, but they later struggle to get out and lead a normal life. Sexually transmitted diseases and mental ailments are common problems for working girls. Many also become the subject of retaliation when they try to quit, as the traffickers will spread their private photographs and information online.

According to Vietnamese government, more than 30.000 people in the country work as prostitutes in 2013. However, some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) believe the figure could be as high as 300.000. While many people feel compelled to work as prostitutes due to poverty and a lack of employment opportunities, there have been numerous reports of women being coerced into sex work, often as a result of false promises of lucrative employment.

There have also been reports of parents coercing their daughters into prostitution or making extreme financial demands that driven them to engage in sex work. In recent years, officials have publicly announced an upsurge in child sexual exploitation. According to a 2011 UNICEF study, children as young as 12 worked as prostitutes in Vietnam, with the most common observed ages being 14 to 15.

This is the story of B, who has been a working girl since she was just over 16 years old. She has saved enough money after two years and is attempting to escape. Avoiding retaliation from her traffickers, hiding her past, and especially confronting her abusive father are obstacles she must overcome to live the happy life she always dreams of.

B began working as an in-call escort at the age of 16, which is the legal age for sexual consent in Vietnam. After a physical altercation, she was expelled from school. Her father’s abuse drove her away from her own family. A sex trafficker got to her through an online chatroom and enticed her into prostitution.

B ran away to the city in 2012. She worked various labour jobs to support herself, hoping that her parents would come looking for her one day. B’s parents, on the other hand, never looked for her.

B was initially instructed to stay in a hotel in order to be available for work whenever a customer called. She was moved from hotel to hotel for nearly a year before settling down.

Every working girls is expected to please their handler; they will be rated and priced accordingly.

B served an average of 5-6 customers per day, primarily in the evenings and at night. However, there are days she served more than ten customers.

B always leaves the TV and the bathroom lights on so she can go into sleep.

An appointment typically costs between $10 to $25. Sex traffickers take a 25% cut for each appointment. If clients are dissatisfied , many will refuse to pay and verbally assault the girls. Sex workers are unable to work independently, as they are an easy target for harassment. Sex-traffickers provide protection to them from both clients and authorities.

B cares deeply for her mother. If what she does in the city is discovered, people in her village will isolate and discriminate against her family. B is scared that if this happens, her mother will commit suicide.

Only a small fraction of working girls commit to regular health exams due to a lack of knowledge. Working girls use protection when dealing with customers, but they are frequently forced to appease sex traffickers unprotected. Many customers seek service after abusing drugs and alcohol, which could threaten the girls during contraception.

Working girls either keep working until being casted out or try to save as much money as possible and start a new life. For many, the first option is chosen, but B opts for the second option.

B made the decision to return home and finish her high school studies. After her brother killed in a traffic accident, B’s father quitted his job, became engrossed in alcohol, and began beating his own family. B’s mother is struggling to make ends meet while also paying for the liquor he consumes everyday.

B despised her father and blamed her mother for her lack of courage. They  found that her father was having an affair. After a big fight, her father forced B and her mom to live in the storage and cut off all the power. Yet B’s mom cannot bring herself to divorce due to her pride and the stigma surrounding divorced women in rural Vietnam.

B’s cat at home mysteriously vanished one day. B started looking for the cat but eventually gave up. She assumes the cat left in search of a better life.

B’s mom is helping a salesman to install a gas stove in darkness. Without electricity, the gas stove is the only modern appliance that B and her mom can use.

To improve the family’s income, B wants to purchase pigs for her mother to raise and sell. She is reluctant to do so because her father once killed three pigs by freezing them to death following a fight with her mother. Dry straw is now kept in the pigsty.

B said that even though she doesn’t make any money, it is now easier for her to fall asleep at night.

Candle is the main source of light at night for B and her mom. B is worried whether she will be able to put up with her father’s abuse for long enough to complete high school or if she will once again be forced to leave the family.

B is very close to her mom. She likes teasing her mother. It’s how she comforts and expresses her love.