By Kiều Vân
HÀ NỘI The case of a student being openly molested on a bus is shocking enough. What that young girl must be going through in the aftermath of the abuse is unthinkable.
But what is equally, if not more disturbing, is the fact that so many people on the bus from Nha Trang to HCM City did nothing to prevent the abuse.
20-year-old N.T Hằng, not her real name, said she was dismayed by the lack of help she received from the 40-plus fellow passengers on board at the time.
"I was really shocked that people heard ‘my call for help’ but did nothing,” she said. “I was crying, but they only looked at the abuser, then just went back to sleep."
And she is not the only one left angry, annoyed and disappointed by the lack of social morals displayed by those close by.
Hundreds of readers shared their condemnation on the zing.vn online newspaper, calling on the bus company to act against the sex abuser.
But the big question for me, as a mother of a teenage daughter, is why did no one step in and help this poor girl?
I would not dare allow my daughter to make such a long journey after reading about this abhorrent episode.
The incident is alleged to have happened after Hằng boarded the bus alone. The assistant onboard sat next to her and she did what so many others do during a late night journey, fell asleep.
What happened next is unthinkable.
The member of staff is accused of molesting her as she slept.
After she woke to find the man molesting her, she said he even had the audacity to open up his wallet and offer cash for her to keep quiet.
“After being discovered, he took his wallet and tried to give me cash. I did not take it. He returned to sit at the front of the bus.”
But if that wasn’t bad enough, she says he then returned some 15 minutes later to carry on the abuse.
This time the victim screamed, shouted for help and called on the driver to turn the lights on. The accused simply uttered the words sorry and returned to his seat.
Speaking about the incident, National Assembly delegate Bùi Thanh Tùng said the lack of action by those sitting around her was terrifying, blaming society’s change in attitude and refusing to get involved in what many regard as ‘not their problem’.
“That makes good people afraid of evil people,” he said. “True people who want to protect righteousness are afraid of retaliation and afraid of being involved. In those cases, they are annoyed but choose to ignore it, as if they are not looking, not hearing.
“They are afraid and do not dare to speak up because they are afraid of being affected, implicating themselves.
“Sharing and helping each other now seems to be declining in some groups of people when they think it's not their job, they don't need to participate. It is very sad."
Mother of two Nguyễn Thu Hà, from Hà Nội also spoke out.
“Life is now more stressful than it used to be, unemployment and inflation make life more difficult for people,” she said, suggesting this is why people turn a blind eye. She also said many members of the public have no faith in justice and believe keeping quiet is the best course of action to take.”
Dr Tô Văn Trường, speaking to Người Lao Động (The Labourer) newspaper, said the attitude of people to do nothing was an “insensitive disease”.
“In the medical dictionary there is no insensitive disease but only a state of indifference to the external environment,” he wrote.
“In our country today, insensitivity has almost become a highly infectious social disease. Subjects with this disease could be all kinds of people, including highly-educated people and those knowledgeable on the law.”
Change from your own family
Insensitivity is infectious, a disease that is spreading fast not just in wider society but also much closer to home.
The examples are plenty. The seriously-ill patient lying in bed while children play around him, showing little or no respect. Siblings tearing each other apart as they fight over inheritance left by a loved one just days after they died. A man knowing an in-law or cousin is using his wife as a punching bag but sitting back and doing nothing to intervene.
All sadly traits of a modern day society when we find ourselves consumed by social media, our own personal egos, selfishness and lack of willingness to stand up and do the right thing.
While accepting the world is changing at a mindboggling pace, we have to stop, slow down and remember values that are important today. Family is important and friendships matter. We should never forget that no matter how fast things change.
Anglo-Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once famously wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
He penned those words in the 1700s. Little did he know at the time that in Viet Nam some two centuries later they would be as relevant as the day he wrote them. VNS