China / Society

Project to stamp out domestic violence expands

By He Dan in Beijing and Liu Ce in Shenyang (China Daily) Updated: 2012-11-26 07:56

A pilot project to stamp out domestic violence in Shenyang is being expanded to cover more communities after signs that it has made a positive impact.

Police in the Liaoning provincial capital teamed up with the Shenghuayuan residents' committee in August to set up an intervention center.

Project to stamp out domestic violence expands

A volunteer depicting a victim of domestic violence shows pictures of abused victims during a lecture against domestic violence in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in September. Long Wei / for China Daily 

The center has handled 50 cases since August, and about half of the victims who received assistance reported no further violence, according to the committee.

With the help of public security authorities, the model will now be rolled out to all 124 neighborhoods in the city's Shenhe district, Yang Xiaodan, chairwoman of the district women's federation, said at a launch ceremony on Sunday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

"In recent years, emergency calls related to domestic violence have accounted for 20 percent on average," said Lu Zhenwei, deputy director of Wulihe police station, which ran the initial pilot. "Domestic violence happens from time to time, and cases often deteriorate without effective intervention."

In the past, perpetrators continued to beat their spouses once the police left, as they believed it was a family problem rather than police business, he said.

In August, the station set up a domestic violence intervention center staffed by Shenghuayuan residents' committee that could be contacted through the 110 emergency hotline.

"We realized that police can only step in when a victim dials 110, but a lot of women choose to suffer in silence, so we believe it's better to involve the neighborhood committees as they are more familiar with the more than 3,700 households there," Lu said.

"In our daily work, we often confront cases of violence at home, but traditional measures of persuasion and education did not make a big difference," said Zhou Fengmei, director of the residents' committee. "But thanks to the center, we can go to mediate with the police, and together we keep records for domestic violence cases and conduct home visits regularly. The situation is improving."

Fang Fuquan, 70, said through the mediation he realized beating his disabled wife is wrong. Police and committee members visited the couple after receiving reports that Fang often hit his wife and sometimes refused to give her food and medicine.

"They have done a lot to teach us to be more tolerant and learn to understand each other," he said.

Since 2009, Lu's officers have been required to keep records of visits to homes with domestic violence, thanks to a training program organized by the women's federation.

The records include the time, place, a brief summary of the case, and details of injuries and evidence, he said, adding that the documents also contain the fingerprints and signatures of all parties involved.

"It's simple, but it not only gives the perpetrator a warning but can also be used as evidence in court," Lu said.

"Most domestic violence cases are not serious enough for us to detain the offender, but every time we go to mediate we will tell them that if his wife resorts to divorce, all the files can be evidence," he added. "Even if the wife doesn't do that, if the records show the situation is getting worse, the police can take legal action."

Guo Lixia, 63, said her alcoholic husband used to beat her whenever he got drunk, one time leaving her with several fractured ribs.

"Every time he beat me, I thought he wanted to kill me, but I had no way out as I didn't have any income," she said. "Also, I felt embarrassed about the thought of getting a divorce. I'm not a young woman anymore, and we had a son."

After one incident this year, she called the police, who made a report and ordered her husband to sign a letter promising to stop. The police now visit Guo's home regularly to check on the couple's progress.

"Now my husband doesn't hit me because he's afraid of the police coming for him," Guo said.

The community intervention center still faces challenges in its daily operations due to the lack of a dedicated law on domestic violence.

"Without a special law on domestic violence, the police cannot take proper action when tackling such cases," Lu said.

He said efforts should be sped up to approve legislation on domestic violence and establish an inter-department cooperation system, which can clarify different department's responsibilities and facilitate cooperation.

"At the moment, dealing with domestic violence is neither a clarified responsibility nor a factor considered in the performance assessment for the police, so many officers don't have the incentive to handle such cases," he added.

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