“If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, help is available. Find out where the nearest shelter is, or call a hotline number for help!”

Interview with Linh*, hotline operator for a shelter that supports women and girls experiencing violence.

Date: Friday, December 11, 2020

15 CLEAN VNM Peace House

Linh*, 23, is a hotline operator for a shelter that supports women and girls experiencing violence. Like many support organizations, they’ve been overwhelmed by demand during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Since April, the hotline has received seven times the number of calls it did during the same period in 2019.

“It has been only three months since I started working here, but I’ve already seen far too many cases of violence. My job is to take calls from women in Viet Nam, including women migrant workers, especially when they return back to Viet Nam. I organize assistance with local authorities, provide legal support and refer cases to counsellors if needed.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made everything much more difficult for survivors of violence. They cannot easily make a call or even send a text message to hotlines because they are at home with their abuser all the time. We get many calls late at night or early in the morning while the abuser is sleeping. For this reason, we had to open the hotline number 24/7 so we don’t miss an urgent call for help.  Support from the Safe and Fair Programme was extremely timely as it meant we could hire more hotline operators like me for the night shift.

“COVID-19 has made our work more complicated as additional layers and procedures have to be added before we can act on urgent rescue operations. There is much less transport available for the women to escape [to the shelter]. Social distancing means that there are fewer staff members on-site to assist. Newcomers have to be quarantined for 14 days in collaboration with local health officers [before they can enter the shelter].

“In addition, financial and human resources are being mobilized for COVID-related responses and there are not enough police officers to respond to violence against women despite the surge in cases. Too often, they hesitate to intervene until ‘something’ happens. By then it is too late. To fill the gap, we needed more counsellors, hotline operators and social workers on duty. 

“Sometimes, abusers find the location of the shelter and try to take the survivor with them. They beg, bribe, bring flowers, gifts, handwritten letters to show that they have changed. But when we say ‘no’, they threaten us, yell at us, curse us. Sometimes we change our clothes to look different when we leave the shelter, just in case one of them is waiting for us outside.

Despite all that, supporting women - helping them to walk away from the violent situation and seeing them being empowered - inspires me.

I would like to tell women who are experiencing violence to find out where the nearest shelter is or call a hotline number for help. They can refer your case to the police, which will put more pressure on [authorities] to act immediately. If you know someone who is in a violent relationship or if you witness violence, please call a hotline or the police. Lots of rescues were initiated by one call from a worried neighbour or peer.”

Originally published at https://www.spotlightinitiative.org/fr/node/35221

The ILO-UN Women programme “Safe and Fair: Realizing women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities in the ASEAN region”, under the global EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls, supports front-line service providers to ensure essential services are available for women migrant workers who subject to violence in both normal and COVID-19 times. More: www.spotlightinitiative.org/safe-and-fair 

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence against women in Viet Nam, contact the Peace House for support no matter your migration status.

  • Counselling services: +84 0437281035

More contacts of service providers are available in the Service Directory for Women Migrant Workers in the ASEAN region: https://bit.ly/services4wmw

Interviewed by: Nguyen Ha

Written by: Younghwa Choi