By Togtokhbayar Dorjpalam; Edited by Leanna Cappiello
Tuul* is one of seven children in a blended family. Her mother remarried, so she has many half-siblings. Tuul was very young when both her parents died, so her survival story entails a lot of moving in and out of extended family homes.
For a few recent years, the young orphan of 11 stayed with one of her stepsisters, Sanaa* and her husband Dorj*. It was a long time before anyone knew what Tuul was going through.
She felt she couldn’t be alone in her suffering much longer, but didn’t know who to turn to. One day, Tuul wrote a long letter about what had happened to her. She sent the letter to Saruul*, one of her stepsisters who lived far away in the countryside.
“Saruul told me that our brother-in-law, [Dorj], was abusing Tuul sexually,” says Byambasuren, another of Tuul’s stepsisters. She called Tuul, who was crying when she picked up the phone. “I told her to come live with me. I wanted to report the case to the police, but Tuul asked me not to.”
Tuul was afraid of putting her stepsister, Sanaa, and her children in danger if she admitted what happened. Tuul grew up as an orphan, and didn’t want the same fate for her nieces.
The local child protection team acted immediately, removing Tuul from Sanaa and Dorj’s home and bringing her to Byambasuren safely. Meanwhile, the local child protection team called a meeting with Sanaa, and the police spoke with Dorj.Fearing the worst, and in an effort to protect Tuul, Byambasuren and her husband called World Vision’s 24-hour child helpline, which alerts a local child protection team, specializing in protecting children and families from abuse.
Tuul was shocked emotionally. She was shaking, avoiding eye contact, and still didn’t want to talk about what she had been through.
“It was such a difficult moment to meet Tuul for the first time, hearing that she has been abused since she was 4-years-old,” says Narmandakh, one of the staff members of the child and family development center. She spent some time with Tuul to help her recover from the ongoing trauma. “Such a beautiful girl,” Narmandakh added fondly.
To begin Tuul’s recovery, she moved in with Byambasuren, started visiting a psychologist and meeting with Narmandakh regularly. After a month’s follow-up, she was making dramatic visible improvements. Tuul is starting to return to a child’s life and likes to play with her peers.
Tuul is grateful for the path to recovery, and especially thanks Narmandakh for what she has done. She now has dreams of becoming policewoman, inspired by the child protection team.
*Names changed to protect identities