[Special reportage- part IV] Runaways live with the pain of rape

Posted on : 2012-10-30 16:38 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Stuck with a lack of options, teens enter prostitution and risk sexual violence

By Um Ji-won, Park Ah-reum and Jo Ae-jin, staff reporters

“It’s okay.” A-young said. “It already happened. It’s really okay.”

A-young was giggling when cautiously asked about her experience being raped. “Everyone has to go through this when they run away. It’s okay.” She meant that it was okay to ask her about it. Of course, it didn’t mean that she is literally okay. She continued, “It was horrifying.”

A-young was first raped last year. She met a 20-year-old man online, who was willing to provide her with a place to stay. There were already two runaways in his house. When she got there, he said, “Let’s be a couple. If you become my girlfriend I’ll give you a place to stay so the police can’t catch you.” A-young, 14, didn’t understand what he meant. On the fourth day, she had a horrible experience.

A-young assumed that the other female runaways had gone through the same experience. A-young’s claim that “every runaway goes through the same thing” is not an unreasonable assumption. Female runaways who can’t afford to buy food or find a safe place to sleep are easy targets for rapists.

After her first rape, she was raped 4-5 times by different men. “Everyone who goes to these people who promise a place to sleep will get raped. Even though they promise not to do anything bad, they do it anyway.”

She never reported the incident to the police, nor did she notify her family. “There’s nowhere else to sleep.” The 14-year-old girl’s eyes were full of resignation.

Some experiences are even worse than others. A few months ago, A-young escaped from her rapist. As she left, one of the female runaways in his house held on to A-young and said, “He has STDs. If you don’t get treated immediately, you’ll never be able to have a baby. Go to the hospital.” However, A-young couldn’t go to the hospital because she didn’t have any money.

Last month, A-young and her friend Ji-min went to an obstetrics and gynecology clinic. Both had contracted STDs.

The street runaways don‘t have consensual sex. All the female teen runaways met by the Hankyoreh claim that their first experience of getting raped or prostitution was “horrible” and “terrifying.” However, the trauma demoralizes them and they often do not try to find justice or reprieve. They became resigned to their situation while the risk of sexual violence lurked around every corner. They would at times succumb to that risk.

Ji-min, who decided to become an adult herself because she didn’t have any adults to rely on, said that her rape was horrifying. “Five, four, three, two, one.” She began her story by counting down. As she spoke, her voice started to tremble as if a dark fog was coming over her.

Ji-min ran away from her house a month ago and spent the first of her days sleeping in a public washroom. She then started looking for a person who could provide her with a place to sleep. She went to Seoul after getting a message from a 20-year-old man who she didn’t know at all. He was living with his uncle and Ji-min was relieved to know that the man was living with a family member, because she thought the man wouldn’t commit any “bad things”.

One day, the man called Ji-min to his room. Then he forced her to “adult things”. Ji-min shouted “No” and refused. The uncle that Ji-min thought would protect her was mentally disabled and could do nothing to help her.

“You’re really not going to do this?” The man who scolded Ji-min started to count. “Five, four three, two, one.” Ji-min started to cry. “Stop crying. Five, four, three, two, one.” The man counted down whenever he forced her to do something.

“He was dirty. I have a phobia of counting numbers now.” Ji-min started to cry when she shared her story.

She was repeatedly raped after that first time. In addition, whenever she went to a “job” she was beaten and abused.

Ji-min’s runaway friend Sun-hwa said she had done prostitution from last year. She told a story of a drunken man who punched her in the face when she demanded that he pay before the job. She has also been beaten up by men for no apparent reason.

Sun-hwa quickly became frail. When she visited the hospital, because she had severe pain in her groin, she was diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease and enteritis. “When I lay down alone, I feel so depressed. I don’t know why I’m living like this. I must be crazy.”

Translated by Kang Ki-won, a student at Asia Pacific International School


Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]


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