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Vietnam: information for victims of rape and sexual assault

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Vietnam: information for victims of rape and sexual assault

This information guide has been produced to help British nationals in Vietnam following rape or a sexual assault.

  • To ensure that they are fully aware of how to access appropriate medical services and care.
  • Enabling them to make informed decisions regarding reporting the incident, how to engage with foreign legal authorities overseas and what to expect.

1. First steps

The most important thing is to make sure that you are as safe as you can be. If you contact us, we will listen to you, support you and provide you with as much information as possible to help you decide what to do. It is your choice about what you do next, but this information may help you in coming to a decision. It offers practical advice and information specific to local customs, processes and procedures. You can contact us out of office hours – our contact centre will assist you 24 hours a day/7 days a week and as soon as we can one of our Embassy staff and/or Consular Team Vietnam will get in touch with you.

Staff will be polite, patient, sensitive and non-judgmental. They can provide information on local police and medical procedures. Anything you tell them will be treated in the strictest confidence. They can contact:

  • Your family or friends for you if you wish
  • Your tour operator if you are travelling with one

Live Online Support is an online service that gives British survivors of sexual violence access to UK-based real time support from anywhere in the world.

The local authorities rarely speak good English, are difficult to contact and not experienced in dealing directly with foreigners so we suggest that you speak to us before attempting to contact them.

2. Getting medical treatment

Your safety and health are paramount. Even if you decide not to report what has happened to the police, you should see a doctor. They can determine if you have been injured in any way and give you advice regarding emergency contraception and sexually transmitted infections. Vietnam is a high-risk country in terms of sexually transmitted diseases due to the poor quality of sex education. Please refer to Medical facilities in Vietnam for a medical provider close to you. Please note that at public hospitals the doctors may not speak English. We will do our best to provide Embassy and/or Consular staff to accompany you if you would like us to and if practically possible.

Try not to wash or change your clothes immediately after a sexual assault. This may destroy forensic evidence that could be important if you decide to report the assault to the police.

Medical attention is available at public hospitals, private clinics or hospitals. A private hospital or clinic is more likely to offer an environment like what you might expect at home and have the HIV PEP medication and emergency contraception readily available.

If it is possible that you may have been exposed to the HIV virus, you should go to a hospital/clinic urgently to obtain advice, STD check-up and as indicated “Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)” treatment.

2.1 HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) medication

This consists of 28 days of treatment that may reduce your risk of contracting HIV, you can continue the treatment with the NHS on your return to the UK. It must be started within 72 hours of the assault for it to be effective. The treatment may not be beneficial in all cases and there may be side effects.

You will need to pay for treatment and tests at both public, private hospitals and clinics. At a private clinic this is likely to range from $300 to $500. We are unable to assist you with public funds to cover any of these costs. But we can help you reach out to family or friends for their financial support at this time.

2.2 Emergency contraception (morning after pill)

Emergency contraception needs to be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of the incident for it to be effective. In Vietnam emergency contraception is sold over the counter at most pharmacies “thuốc tránh thai khẩn cấp”.

A brand available at most pharmacies in Vietnam is called: Postinor 1 and Postinor 2. However, we suggest that you seek medical guidance as the dose, frequency, side effects and efficacy all depend on using the medication properly.

If you have any medication administered in Vietnam, you may wish to keep the label or make a note of the name of the medication, so that you let your local health provider know when you return home.

2.3 Insurance

If you received medical treatment abroad, your travel insurance may cover you for any personal injuries resulting from a crime and any belongings you lost at the time of the assault. It is likely that for the claim to be valid the crime is reported to police in the country where the assault took place. Check your policy or contact your insurance provider for details. Your policy may cover other costs incurred as a victim of crime, including legal fees.

3. A brief summary of what we can do:

Immediately – Listen without judging, provide details of where you can get medical treatment, and accompany you to the police or medical centre if practically possible.

Over the first few days – Help you to contact friends or family, provide details of support agencies, and explain the reporting process.

In the longer term – Support you through the process should you decide to report to the police and signpost you to organisations in the UK who can help you on your return home.

4. Reporting the incident to the police in Vietnam

If you choose to report the crime, try to do so as soon as possible, so forensic evidence can be retained. Washing yourself or your clothes may make it difficult for the police to obtain forensic evidence. If you change your clothes, think about taking those items you were wearing to the police. You may wish to preserve evidence by retaining items such as condoms, toothbrushes, or texts. Tell the police if you think you have been drugged. If you want the crime to be investigated, you will need to report it in Vietnam and undergo a medical examination at a public health facility or forensic centre chosen by the police. Please be aware that few Vietnamese police officers have received special training in handling rape and sexual assault cases, and you are likely to experience a lack of professionalism when reporting an incident to the police. The British Embassy and Consulate-General are aware that some victims have found the process of reporting the assault difficult and quite different from what they would expect of UK police proceedings.

We stand ready to facilitate matters where we can. We will do our best to provide Embassy and/or Consular staff to accompany you if you would like us to. If you are a long way from the Embassy or Consulate-General and we cannot get to you, we will try to liaise with local police via telephone. You may also want to ask a friend or someone you trust to go to the police station with you – many people find it helpful not to be alone. The police may not speak English so, if possible, take a Vietnamese speaker with you. The reporting procedure is likely to be time consuming. If need an interpreter, the police may provide one (either an English-speaking police officer or a professional interpreter). Please note that there is no guarantee of the quality of the interpreter. You will make your statement in English and it will be translated into Vietnamese by the translator. Insist you get a copy of the police report and if you are asked to sign on documents, make sure you understand and agree with the content. Let us know if you have any difficulties and we will speak with the police.

If you approach the police directly, please ask them to contact the British Embassy in Hanoi on 024 3936 0500 or the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City on 028 3825 1380 so that we can facilitate and support you. If you are in an area where we can reach you, we will try to send a Consular officer to support you.

You will normally be asked to make your initial report at the police station closest to where the incident took place. The police officer at this police station will file your report and it is likely they will later transfer your case to another office at a higher level of city level. When reporting the incident to the police you can state your preference for a female or male officer however although there may not always be female officers available.

According to Vietnamese Penal Code, rape is an extremely serious crime. The penalties extend to life imprisonment and even death in the case of victims under 16 years of age. There is no gender discrimination, i.e., it is applied equally to both male and female offenders. Also, there is no distinction made between Vietnamese and foreign offenders. There are also several provisions on sexual abuse or assault with different penalties based on the level of violation.

5. Reporting the crime in Vietnam – what happens next?

You will be required to make a statement giving all details of the incident and may be asked to repeat it several times. Few Vietnamese police officers have had specialised training so expect questions which you may think irrelevant e.g.: have you been drinking, did you invite the person to your room, etc. The officers may also be lacking in empathy.

After your statement has been taken the police will take you to a local forensic centre to collect evidence which would be accepted in court should you wish to bring a case against a perpetrator. Evidence collected elsewhere will not be accepted in court. The staff at the forensic centre may not speak English and there may be little privacy and information of the process they carry out at the forensic centre.

Please note however any forensic evidence must be collected at a police approved health facility or forensic centre for it to be considered for a prosecution. Public hospitals will only treat any obvious life-threatening physical injuries but are not able collect any forensic evidence. It is your choice whether to report the crime, but if you don’t report it, your case will not be investigated.

6. The forensic medical examination – what to expect

Public hospitals and medical centres will treat obvious injuries. More comprehensive medical attention is available at private clinics or hospitals. They may report the incident or results to the police, but any forensic evidence collected anywhere other than a police approved centre cannot be used in court.

The medical examination at the forensic centre will be conducted by a doctor. Please note that the purpose of this examination is solely to collect evidence, not as a medical check-up or to test for STDs or HIV. Where possible and if you wish us to, we will go with you. The examination may involve a pelvic exam, vaginal/penile/anal swabs, fingernail scrapings, and blood samples. These samples will be used as forensic evidence. If the police have a suspect, they may also order them to be examined. The police may also take pictures of places on your body where there is evidence of violence such as cuts or bruises, and they may keep some of your clothing as evidence. You might also be required to pay for the examination fee.

7. Police investigations in Vietnam – what to expect

After a statement is given, the police may require you to identify the scene where the attack happened either by going back there or via a CCTV record. If they detain someone, they may ask you to identify them. Depending on the location we will try to come with you if you want us to, and if the police allow us to.

Once someone is detained the police have up to 30 days to do an initial investigation and collect evidence. When they have enough evidence, they will submit the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office for a decision on a formal arrest. Once the attacker is formally arrested the police will be allowed more time to continue the investigation. When they believe they have enough evidence for a prosecution, they will present the case to the Public Procuratorate Office again. If the case is suitable for prosecution, it will be submitted to a court, who will arrange a trial. If it is not, it may be sent back to the police for further investigation. From detention to trial normally takes 2 to 4 months. A more complex case could take even longer. You don’t have to appoint your own lawyer, but you do have the right to, especially if you want to attach a civil claim to the criminal case. The Embassy or consulate can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers

A lawyer can make a statement in front of the public prosecutor when the prosecution is decided. At this stage the lawyer is entitled to have access to the victim/case notes. The law in Vietnam does allow lawyers to do pro bono work in the case of individuals on low incomes. Whether a lawyer would offer a pro bono service is totally up to them. It is extremely unlikely pro bono services would be provided to a foreign national.

You can leave Vietnam after the case is filed. You must inform the police or prosecutor before you do and there may be some paperwork you need to sign. If you leave Vietnam, we can keep you updated on the progress of the case if you wish.

8. Court procedures – what to expect

Once the court decides on a date for a hearing, they will notify the Embassy or Consulate-General. This may be at very short notice. We will notify you as soon as possible. Cases are usually closed hearings so we will not be allowed to sit in. Normally you won’t need to testify. Under local law the victim is entitled to be kept informed at all stages of the progress of the case. A lawyer will help with access to information and in keeping a victim better informed, particularly as all communications will be in Vietnamese.

If the case is referred to further investigation a victim may be required to make additional statement if so, requested to by the local authorities.

Under Vietnamese law it is not possible to drop charges once they have been filed if the local authorities believe a crime has been committed. In reality, should a foreigner wish to withdraw a petition for charge it is unlikely that a case would be brought. You would need to make a written letter of withdrawal and submit it to the police or prosecutor asking them to drop the case. It is unlikely that there would be any legal repercussions for the victim.

If a false accusation was proven the law states that the person who made the false accusation is subject to legal liabilities and in such a situation the alleged assailant would be entitled to press counter charges.

There is no government compensation scheme to cover physical or psychological injuries suffered however it is possible to attach a civil claim for compensation to the criminal case. You will need to speak to a lawyer on how to proceed with this. We can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers if you need one. Compensation would normally be settled at the same time as the case is brought before the criminal court but where there is insufficient evidence to make a judgement on the civil aspect of the case, compensation for any injuries may be separated and dealt with at a later date in accordance with civil case proceedings.

9. If you do not want to report the incident to the police in Vietnam

The British Embassy or Consulate will be able to support you by helping you to contact your insurance company, your family, travel back to the UK and/or provide you with information on local support in the UK. We can provide you with lists of English-speaking medical facilities, lawyers and translators. We may also be able to accompany you to the local hospital.

If you are travelling with a tour operator, you can report the incident to them and ask for their assistance. Where possible and if you wish, the tour operator may accompany you to the local hospital.

10. Reporting the incident to the police in the UK

It is possible to report the crime to police in the UK. However, it is for foreign police forces to decide whether to investigate a crime in their jurisdiction. UK police forces cannot investigate crimes committed overseas.

Foreign police forces can decide to request assistance from the UK police, but this cannot be guaranteed and is a very lengthy process. It can therefore be very difficult to guarantee that any justice can be accessed without reporting the crime locally.

11. When you return home to the UK

You may want to let your GP, or a Sexual Assault Referral Centre know what has happened to you so that you can talk about the experience and seek further support and advice.

If you believe you may be at risk of having contracted a sexually-transmitted infection (STI), ask your local health provider to test you, even if you have been tested in the country that the assault took place in.

For more information, read our advice on returning to the UK after rape and sexual assault abroad.

There are many Rape Crisis Centres throughout the UK that can help provide support and advice if you have suffered from a sexual assault overseas.

Vietnam: information for victims of rape and sexual assault

 

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