“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The sixteen-year-old hesitated for a moment, her dark brows furrowing as she pouted her lips, deep in thought. We glanced at each other, worried. Was it too soon? It was indeed a normal question to ask any teenager on the brink of adulthood. Yet we knew that Vatey was not just any teenage girl. She was one with battle scars, having gone through much more than any child should have at such a young age.
Growing up in a household of fishermen meant that Vatey’s parents were hardly around. In fact, each evening, like clockwork, her parents would go out to sea, in search of fresh catch to sell at the local market. It was hard but necessary as the fate of their family’s livelihood literally hung by a (nylon) thread. As a result, more often than not, Vatey and her siblings were entrusted to a neighbouring family.
It was then that it happened.
One night, unbeknownst to her neighbours, their son had come into Vatey’s room. Seeing that she was left unattended, he raped her.
She did what any girl would do. She ran, with all her might, not stopping till she finally arrived at another family’s house down the street. Shocked, the family filed a police report. Yet, not only did the perpetrator evade justice, he remained in the area, becoming a living nightmare that taunted her.
To make matters worse, her mother was concurrently struggling with substance abuse. Therefore, with no one to turn to and nowhere else to go, Vatey was referred to HAGAR.
Initially shy and nervous around people, it was hard to believe that that same girl sat before us today. Smiling with confidence, she glanced at her foster mother for support before answering, “I’m going be a teacher.”
“When foster children come to live with me, I always begin by asking them about their dreams, what they want to do,” Vatey’s foster mother explained. “Then, I encourage them and push them towards their goal.”
“As a Christian, I have a heart that feels for people. It’s a joy to watch these children overcome difficulties and become successful.”
Thanks to HAGAR’s foster care programme and the help of a warm and loving home, it took only three years for Vatey to heal and regain hope for her future. She is no longer in need of counselling and has even been given the green light to transition from a foster home to a house right next door, where she now lives semi-independently.
A model example for the youth in her community, Vatey is in the process of developing the necessary skills for self-management all whilst working hard to fulfill her dreams of being a teacher.
Dear reader, throughout the interview and even while we were in the process of writing this article, our hearts ached for the many others who have gone through, or were going through similar life-altering experiences like Vatey. While good wishes and prayers go a long way in helping these women, a small donation in time or money could do wonders for victims of rape and abuse. Do take some time to chat with your loved ones sometime this week and spread the awareness of the reality of how exploitation could happen anywhere, even in our own backyard.
Empower a survivor today and see transformation take place as they rise up from their trauma!
Written by Ms Eunice Sng, currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Marketing.
Contributed by Ms Alexis Lim.