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WCOEO|Survey on Women's Experiences of Violence in Hong Kong 2021 Press Conference

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Hong Kong Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities, Zonta Club of Kowloon, Department of Sociology and Social Policy of Lingnan University (the initiating organizations) launched a study on women's experiences of violence last year, with a quantitative and qualitative study conducted by Professor Annie Chan to collect the experiences of 1,044 women who have experienced sexual and intimate partner violence, and to analyze their reactions, feelings and impact when faced with violence. In response to the International Women's Day initiative to raise awareness of violence against women, the founding organizations will hold a press conference on March 7, 2022, to release the data analysis of the study through a ZOOM meeting. The same study had previously been conducted and published in 2013, and, compared to the results of 2013, it was found that women were exposed to sexual and intimate partner violence with equivalent severity, and the increased forms and avenues of violence were found to compound in women feelings of helplessness, as well as greater mental and emotional stress.

 

Sexual violence and intimate partner violence remain serious problems

The initiating organizations and researchers focused on the experiences of sexual and intimate partner violence among women aged 15-64 in Hong Kong. 1044 questionnaires and 30 in-depth interviews were collected. Analysis of the data showed that 37.54% of the respondents had experienced sexual violence and 26.37% had experienced intimate partner violence.

 

About 20% of the respondents who experienced sexual violence were subjected to "the making of sexually explicit remarks that are upsetting/embarrassing" (28.91%) and "non-penetrative sexual assault" (28.91%), while more than 10% of the respondents were subjected to "unwanted sexual attention" (17.97%), or "penetrative sexual assault" (16.34%). More than 90% of the perpetrators were men (92.49%), and more than 60% of the perpetrators were people known to the victims, including former partners (11.11%), friends (9.38%), family members or other relatives (8.15%). More than 20% of the respondents were affected by sexual violence in their home environment, more than 10% suffered sexual violence or were assaulted on transportation vehicles or at school, and about 5% reported that incidences occurred in virtual spaces (i.e., online forums, social media, and communication software). More than 70% of respondents did not know how to respond (75%), and although more than 60% had sought help, the majority would only seek help from family and friends, and 40% would end up not seeking help from anyone.

 

Among the respondents who experienced intimate partner violence, more than 30% were most often "sexually abused or forced to have sex" (35.52%), while the rest were more often subject to "verbal abuse or intimidation" (22.01%) and "physical violence" (14.29%). As for the abusers, about 90% were male, more than 60% were former partners (63.77%), while the rest were current and former legal spouses (12.32% and 11.59% respectively). More than 40% of the cases occurred in the victim's or abuser's home, and most of the respondents felt helpless about intimate partner violence. More than 60% of the victims could not respond immediately, while only 51% of the respondents would seek help, and only 10% would choose to separate or divorce, while a significant percentage of the victims had sought help from psychologists or psychiatrists (9.09%).

 

The above figures reflect that sexual and intimate partner violence against women remains a very serious problem, and there are many forms of violence other than physical violence that exploit women mentally and emotionally.

 

Society must pay proactive attention to hidden sexual violence

Many of the women interviewed in the study pointed out that they had been subjected to further types of violence, including non-penetrative sexual assault, sexually explicit remarks, verbal abuse or intimidation, and intimate partner violence occurring in different settings, not only in the home but also in transportation vehicles, schools and on the Internet. Women find it difficult to seek help in these situations due to feelings of helplessness arising from the difficulty in successfully seeking support under current regulations or guidelines for frontline assistance, which can even cause mental stress such as threats and emotional problems, affecting their personal and family development.

 

The numbers of women seeking help require improvement

The above data shows that only over 40% of the respondents are willing to seek help, and only about 10% of them are willing to seek help from professionals, due to feelings of shame, fear of being blamed by others, and the impact on other relationships. There are still many barriers to seeking help, such as shame from conservative social norms, misconceptions about violence against women, and even more because existing laws and policy support are not effective in combating violence against women.

 

Women are more traumatized by mixed forms of violence

Researchers found from in-depth interviews that women who experience intimate partner violence tend to suffer more types of violence, such as intimate sexual assault, sexual humiliation, emotional violence, verbal intimidation, being cut off financially or socially, non-contact physical violence, etc., generating more types of harm for such women and severely impacting their mental health and feelings of helplessness in such situations.

 

Women need emotional and practical support after experiencing violence

Many negative emotions, such as insecurity, depression, anxiety, self-blame, helplessness, anger, etc., are associated with sexual or intimate partner violence, and different stakeholders in the community need to provide support to female victims to help them overcome their difficulties.

 

Recommendations

The above-mentioned situations are only the tip of the iceberg of violence against women in our society, and the problem of violence still plagues women. In response to International Women's Day, the following recommendations were made to raise awareness of the issue of violence against women and to work together to eliminate all violence against women:

 

  • Call on stakeholders in the community, including the Women's Commission, government departments, advisory committees, and quasi government departments, to incorporate the elimination of violence against women into social policy planning.
  • The government should provide an emergency support fund to help women victims or their family members meet living expenses, crisis situations, or emergency housing expenses, and provide housing support for women, including subsidizing the use of alternative accommodation in addition to shelters and relaxing the application for compassionate rehousing scheme, so as to help women leave their abusers.
  • Refer to the "Guidelines for medico-legal care for Victims of Sexual Violence" issued by the World Health Organization and set up a one-stop crisis support center to handle the medical, judicial and social service needs of battered women.
  • Increase resources for NGOs serving female victims of violence to provide support services to women and increase the flexibility of resource mobilization by government and other organizations in response to the epidemic.
  • Review existing guidelines and case classification system for frontline staff on sexual and intimate violence, and strengthen training for frontline law enforcement officers, legal professionals, and social service workers on assisting women who are victims of violence, so that women can receive appropriate support more quickly in the process of seeking help.
  • Promote the modernization of family courts so that battered women can leave their abusers as soon as possible.
  • Require corporations to establish anti-sexual harassment policies to strengthen the fight against sexual harassment.
  • Implement the proposed sexual offense law reform, including abolishing the crime of rape and creating a new crime of sexual assault by penetration without consent; abolishing the crime of indecent assault and creating a new crime of sexual assault; creating a statutory definition of "consent," etc .
  • Increase resources for public education in different areas so that the public can understand the different forms of violence against women, violence against women, and encourage women to understand their human rights and the laws protecting women in Hong Kong, and to encourage women to report.
  • Suggest public transport operators to remind passengers that sexual violence is a criminal offence, and schools need to include sexual violence in the sex education curriculum.

Media Enquiry

Mr Alvin Chung

Senior Development Officer|Development

alvin.chung@womencentre.org.hk
(852) 2386 6256