When foreign wives in Taiwan face domestic violence, they often fail to report it to authorities because they are unaware of the resources available to them, according to a study by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). According to the study, 85 percent of battered foreign wives did not seek help, and those who did turned to their neighbors, friends, co-workers or church communities.
"Many victims of domestic violence who are foreign nationals consider the abuse they face at home a minor family dispute that is not worth making known to others," said Huang Jean-shyaung (
Huang's academic unit led the study of 111 foreign wives who had experienced domestic violence. The study was done between last September and this September. Although 111 subjects may seem like a small number, Huang said it represented significant work.
"Given the language barriers and the unwillingness of victims to talk about their experiences, it was quite an achievement to have gathered this many individuals," Huang said.
Out of the 1,085 victims, 626 were Cambodians, 171 Thai, 28 Vietnamese, another 28 were Indonesian and the rest were from other ethnic groups.
"Eighty percent of the domestic violence was physical abuse," Huang said. "Other types of abuse included sexual, mental or behavioral manipulation, and isolation."
Such violence is also on the rise. Last year, the total number of foreign wives who had reported domestic violence against them was 921. However, in just the first 10 months of this year the number has risen to 1,085 -- already an 18 percent increase over last year.
Julianti, an Indonesian woman who is seeking custody of her children in an ongoing divorce, stepped out to share her experience as a domestic abuse victim.
"At first, when my drunkard husband started beating me, I was so naive that I thought it was the way Taiwanese marriages were supposed to work," Julianti said. "I didn't even know domestic abuse was actually illegal in Taiwan. When things got worse, I never knew I could seek help -- until one day our neighbor witnessed the abuse and called the police. Only then did I realize that there were social resources available."
Julianti, aged 31, moved to Taiwan 10 years ago after a match-making service introduced her to her Taiwanese husband. She is raising her two children on her own and fears that the judge will give custody of the children to her husband.
"Many times during the divorce trial, the judge forced me to read off verdicts and other documents which were in Chinese, which I could not read," Julianti said. "I wasn't able to sign those documents because I didn't know what they were about and was unsure what I would get myself into if I had signed those papers."
Julianti said she thinks the government should provide more services in languages other than Chinese.
"We foreign wives came to this country alone and have nothing to fall back on," Julianti said. "When we face difficulties while trying to adjust to Taiwanese society, we deserve some help."