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Abuse in home still rages
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-25 22:09

More and more Chinese women are braving shame and social stigma by speaking out about physical and emotional abuse they suffer from husbands or boyfriends.

And because they are seeking help, domestic violence is drawing wider attention in China.

Experts say the need for more social awareness of the issue is vital in coming to grips with the problem. Along with aggressive action by police and prosecutors, communities and neighbourhood committees, as well as hospital workers who treat the victims' injuries, need to be part of a network of change to help protect domestic violence victims, said Wang Xingjuan, director of the Beijing-based Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Centre.

Domestic violence includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and more than 90 per cent of the domestic violence victims are women, Wang said, speaking yesterday on the Fifth International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The Beijing centre has been operating two women's hotlines (010-64033383, 64073800) for the past decade and has been studying women's issues.

Through October of this year, the centre has received 347 complaints about domestic violence, with 95.5 per cent of the victims women.

"Since many people believe that it is better not wash dirty linen public, that most domestic violence victims choose to keep silent," Wang said.

But one out of three women, according to international statistics, has been beaten, raped or emotionally abused by her partner.

One such woman in her late-50s in rural Beijing spoke to hotline workers saying that she had suffered beatings from her husband for 32 years, and had found no one to speak to. She said she wanted to commit suicide because she saw no way out.

Another 29-year-old rural woman from Hebei Province told the hotline her boyfriend formed a habit of beating her when she became pregnant. She suffered eight miscarriages or abortion caused by beatings.

However, the woman said she is still waiting for the man to marry her because she is afraid no one else will because she's had so many miscarriages and abortions.

Psychologists said much of the psychological damage a victim suffers comes not from the assault itself, but from the post-traumatic reactions from others and the aftermath.

"Some wives risk losing their shelter or living support after a divorce or from having their husband go to jail,"said Hou Zhiming, a psychologist at the centre.

The centre also offers psychological counseling for women, helping them resolve family disputes and emotional problems. They can speak about anything they have experienced and the centre will help come up with solutions.

Women asking for help can speak on condition of anonymity if they want.

Researchers said domestic violence comes from the centuries-long stale belief some hold that men are superior to women.

The revised Marriage Law in 2001 forbids domestic violence and names it as one of four petitions for divorce. The amendment provides judicial explanations on physical and psychological domestic violence.

Long-term solutions to domestic violence require respect for women and better education and values.

"Early and proper sex education can help youngsters, especially boys, form the right values and concept of sex and love, which can help reduce sexual abuse and domestic violence in the future," said Deng Weizhi, a Shanghai University social science professor.

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