A university and a military school in Vietnam have denied rumors of sexual assault and suicide involving female students in mandatory training.
The allegations erupted on local social media on Wednesday night, with posts claiming that a female student from Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology (HUFLIT) was gang-raped by 12 men while training at the Zone 7 Military School.
A version of the rumors also made its way to Twitter and Reddit, with at least one post claiming that there was more than one sexual assault victim. The victims allegedly attempted to commit suicide, with one succeeding.
The accusations were supposedly corroborated by clips filmed at the military school.
One of them reportedly included the voice of a man yelling “Spread your legs out,” while another allegedly showed the body of the deceased student being carried away.
Shortly after the rumors broke out, the military school’s Center for National Defense and Security Training, which oversees the mandated program, issued a statement declaring that the information about the videos had been “distorted with bad intentions.”
Instead, what occurred were “internal, personal disputes” between two female students, the center said. One of them allegedly had an emotional breakdown, which led to the screaming in one of the clips.
“Due to their inability to regulate their emotions, one student exhibited screaming and wailing. The incident has been resolved by management employees, without any consequence,” the center said, according to VnExpress International.
HUFLIT also rejected the allegations on Wednesday.
A representative said the information online was “severely untrue,” adding that law enforcement authorities have been asked to investigate and deal with whoever was responsible for spreading the news.
On Thursday, the university and the military school held a joint press conference to provide more details regarding the situation.
It was revealed that a female HUFLIT student in military training lost 1.4 million dong (approximately $60) and subsequently accused another female student of theft.
After being confronted, the accused student became hysterical, according to the administrators. She then ran out of her room screaming and attempted to kill herself by jumping off a balcony.
Authorities, however, managed to step in and take the student to safety. Her parents have since been contacted and advised to take her home, where she is understood to be recovering.
Present at the conference was the student who witnessed and filmed the incident. She reportedly lives in the opposite dormitory building.
The witness admitted to sending the clips of the incident to three friends on a messaging app without context.
From there, the rumors were born.
“Student H. [accused of theft] is currently at home,” Colonel Nguyễn Tiến Sơn, head of the military school’s politics bureau, said at the conference, as per Việt Nam News. “And according to her mother, she is suffering from a mental breakdown due to this false information.”
HUFLIT Principal Nguyễn Anh Tuấn said she herself received malicious messages.
“We are stunned by these false accusations. I was sent malicious messages by phone and social media due to this disinformation. However, the truth is the truth, and a good anvil does not fear the hammer,” Tuấn told reporters.
Colonel Hà Công Chờ, deputy head of the school’s politics bureau, stressed that male and female students live separately at the school — and that males are not permitted in female quarters.
“No one was raped, and no one committed suicide,” Chờ said.