Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Proper help for victims of abuse

By Chi Hui-jung 紀惠容

A recent World Bank report demonstrates that money invested in encouraging women to join the workforce represents one of the most intelligent uses of resources in the 21st century. This conclusion was based on the fact that female employment brings benefits beyond the individual as it also has direct implications for their children and families. Our own experience at the Garden of Hope Foundation concurs with this finding.

We believe that getting female victims of domestic violence into paid employment is by far the most cost-effective form of social welfare, as it takes non-productive members of society who are reliant on social welfare and helps them become productive individuals able to raise a family and contribute to society.

The last few years have been tough for businesses and households across the board, with companies having to close their doors and countless numbers of ordinary people seeing their businesses fail. It is often women who feel the brunt of these changes, something painfully reflected in the way reports of domestic violence increase in direct proportion to rises in unemployment.

From 2005 to last year, the number of domestic violence cases reported to the police increased from 39,644 to 48,098. Of course, not all victims come forward and if you factor in the number of unreported cases, we see a similar picture to that contained in UN statistics which indicate that one in every four or five women around the world is a victim of domestic violence. Violence of this sort comes at enormous cost to the public purse in terms of police time and resources and medical bills, as well as the fact that the victims find it impossible to hold down a job and consequently rely on welfare — a further economic burden on the state.

Both the government and civic groups provide much help and information, including follow-up support such as accompanying victims to seek medical assistance, emergency relief, sheltered accommodation, help with legal matters and psychological counseling.

However, it is our experience that, regardless of how much effort and how many resources are plowed into helping victims of domestic violence, almost half of the women who make use of these services end up back with their abusive partner because of children or the difficulty they experience in finding employment.

In addition, a full 90 percent of this group will suffer a repeat of the violence and once again be forced to rely on social welfare resources. Clearly, there is a need to re-evaluate whether this form of residual welfare is actually working or not.

In fact, it should not cost too much to improve the provision of social services in Taiwan. It will mean giving female victims of domestic violence who want to work the time and space to get themselves together and adapt to a professional work environment, helping them cope with barriers to employment and organize things like day-care for their children. This will equip them with what they need to enter a competitive job market and achieve economic independence. At the same time, this is the only way they can reasonably expect to have the resources or opportunity to extricate themselves from their current difficulties.

Victims of domestic violence find themselves up against all kinds of barriers and prejudices when it comes to seeking employment, and at first they lack the confidence and resources needed. With the right kind of assistance, however, these women really can sort themselves out. At 80 percent, the success rate with this initiative has proven to be much higher than the average reported in ordinary back-to-work centers, which is closer to 30 percent.

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