News/US: Rape Charges Shake Hmong Refugees

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Subject: News/US: Rape Charges Shake Hmong Refugees
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Fri Oct 15 1999 - 09:27:38 EDT

Keep reading & you will find the section about trafficking!


Rape Charges Shake Hmong Refugees
By Jim Suhr
October 13, 1999

DETROIT(AP) Four teen-age girls disappeared from Wisconsin last month,
lured perhaps by the prospect of celebrating the Hmong New Year in the big

When they were found days later and hundreds of miles away in Detroit, they
said they had been repeatedly raped by as many as 20 men, assaulted with a
leather strap and threatened with death if they tried to escape.

Five boys and young men have been charged with rape and are being held on
$1 million bail.

Police have not indicated a motive. But the defendants are also members of
the Hmong ethnic group and are possibly gang members, and the case has
exposed the tensions caused by Laotian refugees' rapid assimilation in the
United States.

Some Hmong people say they have had to struggle to raise their children in
a culture far different from the clan-based, agricultural world they left
behind in Southeast Asia.

Many Hmong fought alongside U.S. troops in Laos, then fled after the
Communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975. An estimated 250,000 Hmong
refugees now live in the United States, most in California, Minnesota and
Wisconsin. About 7,000 are in the Detroit area.

Cheu Xiong of Lansing-based Hmong American Community believes the United
States fosters a sense of independence readily exploited by Hmong youth. In
Laos, he said, "if parents say you can't go, you have to stay. Over here,
if parents say you can't go, kids can say: 'Forget it. I'm going.'"

True Chang of the Hmong Community Organization in the Detroit area said the
problem is compounded by parents' hesitancy to discipline their children as
strictly as they would in Laos, for fear of being charged as child abusers.

Crimes involving teens and problems disciplining children are hardly unique
to Hmong people. But several recent cases have highlighted the problem in
the Hmong community.

In St. Paul, Minn., two 21-year-old men and five teen-age boys were charged
in January 1998 with the gang rapes of three Hmong girls. And in June 1998
in St. Paul, several men were charged with repeatedly raping at least seven
young Hmong girls as part of a gang initiation.

In Fresno, Calif., a year ago, police said they broke up a sex-slave ring
in which as many as 15 Hmong girls aged 13 to 15 were gang-raped and forced
into prostitution.

In the Detroit case, three girls ages 14, 15 and 16 told police they were
lured from a party in Sheboygan, Wis., on Sept. 29 by two men they had just
met, and arrived two days later in Detroit, more than 400 miles away by
car. They said they were taken to a house where a 17-year-old Hmong girl
>from Wisconsin was already being kept.

The younger girls said they were raped by as many as 20 youths over two
days before sneaking out of the house Oct. 4.

The next day, the 17-year-old spotted a police officer tagging abandoned
vehicles and fled. She told officers she had been kidnapped Sept. 18,
brought to Detroit and raped by 10 people.

One of the suspects admitted having sex with the teens but said it was
consensual, police said. Another said he had consensual sex twice with the
older girl and claimed she was never detained.

The Detroit Free Press said the suspects include members of a gang called
Bloods 116, but police and prosecutors would not comment on any gang
involvement, or on possible motives. More arrests could follow.

The 14-year-old girl's brother told the Free Press that several Laotian
girls had heard about a big party in Detroit for the Hmong New Year, which
is celebrated here in October though the holiday is in December.

Sheboygan Deputy Police Chief David Kirk said Hmong are very willing to
travel long distances.

"They see nothing in traveling from Sheboygan to St. Paul or California or
around the state to visit friends and relatives," he said. "It's one large
family, if you want to look at it that way."

The three younger girls are in protective custody and the oldest girl is
staying with a Laotian family.

A man who identified himself as the 15-year-old's father described his
daughter as a good student who liked to do her homework and rarely got into
trouble, other than occasionally staying out late.

"I feel very angry, very sad thinking about it," he said. "My daughter
(was) helping the family and doing her homework, and now she's missing."

Melanie Orhant

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