'I can’t report them all. At this point I just consider it normal.'
Elizabeth Lockard spent five peaceful years in China as a language consultant, before moving to Hanoi.
Two years ago, she took a job at an international school in Hanoi and settled in West Lake District, an ideal area for expats. “I felt safe for a while; didn’t think anyone would dare to touch me," she said. "Back in China, I always walked alone at night and people only stopped to offer help.”
Everything changed in April when two men chased Lockard in broad daylight. Her pursuers pulled up in traffic and groped Lockhard, causing her to lose control of her bike and tumble into the road. Scratched and bruised, she drove to her boyfriend's house in tears.
Lockard's story is one of 18 accounts of sexual assault or harassment posted on Hanoi Massive -- an online expat forum -- in the last two months. In subsequent interviews, two of the posters told VnExpress International they had been groped by taxi and xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers; seven others recalled being chased and violently grabbed by men on motorbikes.
Vietnam recognized sexual harassment as a violation of public order in 2007 when a government decree announced that "gestures, rude words, provocative, teasing and insulting the honor and dignity of others" carried a maximum fine of about $15.
According to the police, harassment cases can now carry a fine of up to $75, while sexual assaults get prosecuted when they result in injuries to 11 percent of the victim's body -- or more. Such determinations are made by medical professionals.
Attention generated by the reported assaults on foreign women has inspired officials at the district level to step up patrols.
A local police official in Yen Phu Ward, Tay Ho District told VnExpress that his team has received only one sexual harassment complaint from three foreign victims and investigation is ongoing.
Read the full story on VnExpress.