Every time Len's husband finished beating her and their 9-year-old son, he would force the child to write a diary entry.
On April 6, 2013, the son was made to write down that he hated his mother: "I will never leave my father to go with my mother even if he wants to kill me... I have made many mistakes but he still loves me."
Two months later, the kid was beaten again.
This time, he was almost killed. Neighbors in his village rushed him to hospital just in time.
Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that Len then filed for divorce to protect herself and her son. The court sided with her and sent her husband to prison.
And she thought she could live happily ever after.
But when he returned 18 months later, he moved in and lived with her again.
'Nowhere to go'
Sitting in her hut in the central province of Quang Ngai, the mother of four told Tuoi Tre that she did not have a choice.
“I just have nowhere else to go,” the woman said.
Len said she wanted to complete the divorce process quickly and did not pay enough attention to shared property. When her husband came back after his jail term, she had to let him in.
Tuoi Tre reported that for Len and many other women in rural Vietnam, there’s really no escape from home violence even after they speak up and divorce their abusive husbands.
Some choose to leave, but cannot find a new shelter.
Huong, another victim of abuse in Quang Ngai, said she desperately wanted to get out of her marriage to raise her child in a safe environment.
So she quickly signed her divorce paper to secure the child custody, telling the court that she and her husband would negotiate to divide their assets.
But now she is caught in a dilemma. If her husband chooses to pay her, the amount of money will not be enough for her to raise her son alone. But she cannot afford to compensate him either.
Huong and her son outside the gate of her own house that she does not want to share with her ex-husband. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
“I’m going to wait and see and then I’ll decide what to do,” she told Tuoi Tre, standing outside her own house.
The laws of the in-laws
Most women in rural Vietnam only receive a small sum of money as compensation from their ex-husbands after a divorce.
Houses are often built on land passed down from the men's ancestors, which makes property division very complicated.
Local authorities cannot sell the house and split the money between the couple because the husband’s family would do everything to scare off potential buyers.
For the very few who managed to win the house, living near their former in-laws is often a nightmare.
Tuyet, another Quang Ngai woman, said her ex-husband's family often dumped pig dung right next to her house.
Many said she should file a complaint.
But Tuyet believed she was still lucky: “Having the house is good enough.”