"Yang" dated her husband for more than five years before getting married four years ago. Already a divorcee, she thought she had found happiness this time. One month into the marriage, however, her husband started to beat her up every time he drank.
Unlike the many victims of domestic violence who suffer from low self-esteem and decline to speak out about their suffering, Yang obtained injury examination reports from the hospital and applied for a protection order from the Taitung District Court. When that piece of paper failed to protect her, Yang packed her bags and moved to a women and children's emergency shelter established by the Garden of Hope Foundation.
"After putting up with years of my husband's violence, I'd come to realize that he would never change, and that it was me who had to make a move and stop tolerating the abuse," said Yang, who asked not to be identified.
Yang is one of 22 victims of domestic violence who have lived in Taitung's emergency shelter since it was established last October. It is equipped with a living room, a kitchen, and 12 beds in four rooms for temporary accommodation.
"Laws against domestic and sexual violence may provide legal protection. But victims need more than legal assistance, and we want the shelter to be a temporary home for abused women and their children to regain control over their lives, physically and mentally, before moving out on their own," said Peng Li-cheng (彭麗真), the general director of the foundation's eastern branch.
Domestic violence is not a new issue, but it has not received much attention until recently, with the passage of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (
While the government and civic groups make a greater effort to battle domestic violence, the allocation of financial and human resources reflects a wide gap between urban and rural regions.
With a much larger taxpaying population, Taipei City Government has more money to spend on social welfare services such as the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center.
Statistics from the center show that there were more than 3,000 cases of domestic violence or sexual assault filed last year. That's five times the number of cases in Taitung County, for example. Yet a considerably larger budget per case is available in Taipei.
"The problem of domestic violence is as serious here as in Taipei, but the lack of information and lack of a strong protection mechanism prevents more victims from speaking out and seeking help," said Taitung County Deputy Commissioner Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪) during a visit to the foundation's Taitung Service Center earlier this week.
Following the establishment of domestic-abuse shelters in Miaoli and Hualien counties, the foundation set up a third in Taitung last year, financed by the local government and charities.
"Before setting up the center and shelter in Taitung, the nearest shelter for the victims here was in Hualien, which is a three-hour drive. Abused women or their children could be beaten to death before finding a way of getting there," Peng said.
Peng said that domestic violence against foreign spouses and Aboriginal women -- who make up a significant percentage of the county's population and who suffer from lower educational and socioeconomic status -- is becoming serious.