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Continued: Shamed into silence

Gang rapes of young Hmong girls stand out for their relentlessness and brutality, prompting even experienced medical workers to reach for descriptions like "shockingly horrible."

Last November, a 16-year-old Hmong girl from the Twin Cities area bled so badly from a sexual assault in Winona that emergency workers airlifted her to Mayo Medical Center after she was found unconscious in an apartment.

Authorities allege in a criminal complaint that Sue Hang, an 18-year-old Winona man, admitted using a Blatz beer can to rape the girl, crushing the can in the process. Blood had soaked through two blankets and onto the carpet in the bedroom, according to the complaint. Hang was charged in Winona County District Court, as were a woman who was there that night, 19-year-old Armeelia Vang, and two juveniles. They are awaiting trial.

In a case in 2003, Hmong pimps tried out young girls, attempting to rape them to see whether their small bodies were large enough to accommodate adult customers, health workers said.

Runaways targeted

In traditional Hmong households, girls stay home, care for siblings, cook and clean. But in the United States, these girls sometimes rebel. They yearn to do what their American friends do, they say -- go to the mall, go to the movies. Many girls run away.

Generally, they don't travel far. The Hmong community is so tight-knit, and families are so large and sprawling that they can almost always stay with a cousin or a friend. Sometimes they go just a few blocks or a few miles.

One 16-year-old Maplewood girl was pressured briefly into prostitution when she ran away in 2000. At school, her non-Hmong friends chatted about going to the movies, but her parents wouldn't let her go.

She was "never allowed to go out," she said. "Not even with my Hmong friends."

One cold winter day, a 23-year-old St. Paul man picked her up near the clothing store where she worked.

She'd met him through some friends. That afternoon they drove around awhile, then stopped to play video games near the University of Minnesota campus. She told police he then described his "business."

He wanted to prostitute her. She refused.

"I didn't wanna do it, and he said that if I didn't do it he would just drop me off somewhere out in the cold," she said.

He took her to the Midway Motel in St. Paul, where she had sex for money with three strangers that night.

Afraid to go home, she stayed with friends for days, until one of them arranged to have her brothers pick her up. Her parents had reported her as a runaway.

Now 22, the girl said she has never told her parents exactly what happened.

"I just don't know what to say to her [her mother], because either way, you know, I ran away," she said. "Even if I told her I was being prostituted she would be like, 'You deserved it.' "

Afterward, she said, her uncle assumed she'd had sex and asked her if she wanted him to arrange a forced marriage. She declined.

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