Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Sex crime victims need more support: activists

SHORTAGE A coalition of children's and women's protection groups said a system for handling cases of domestic violence and harassment was lacking

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite a well-designed system to respond to domestic violence cases and sex crimes, a shortage of budgeting and professional help still hurts the effectiveness of the victim support network, activists said at a conference yesterday.

The activists made the remarks at a forum hosted by the Taiwan Coalition Against Violence, which comprises more than 20 children's and women's protection groups.

The conference began with a review of the top 10 news items on violence against children and women from the beginning of the year until the end of September.

Among the top 10 news items included cases of date rape, sexual harassment in public places, child abuse and parents who killed their children and themselves.

"We have several very good laws and a well-designed system to discover and to sanction offenders in such cases," said Hsu Hui-yi (徐慧怡), a professor of law at National Taipei University. "But we need to examine how to put these laws into practice."

STAFFING AND MONEY

Lin Tzu-ling (林慈玲), executive secretary of the Ministry of the Interior's Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Committee, agreed with Hsu.

Lin said that the availability of staffing and budgeting for community monitoring and psychological counseling of offenders are both running short.

Lin cited the example of the release earlier this year of a former sex offender surnamed Yang () as an example.

Yang, who committed several sex crimes, was released on parole in September.

However, some critics questioned the professionalism of an evaluation report that resulted in his release, as the volunteer social worker who wrote the report was an engineer and did not have any training in psychological counseling.

"The number of social workers for victims across the country is several hundreds of people short," said Gau Fehng-shian (高鳳仙), coalition chairwoman and a Taiwan High Court judge, when asked to specify details of the staffing shortage.

LACK OF EQUIPMENT

"Some police officers have also complained to me that they don't have enough equipment such as voice recorders or video recorders," she said.

Hsu also said there was a lack of professional training among law professionals.

"Very few [judges and prosecutors] received training in handling domestic violence cases and sex crime during their education," she said. "That's why the ridiculous verdict on the 10-second breast-touching' case was handed down."

Hsu was referring to a case in August in which a man who was charged with sexually harassing a woman by touching her breasts for 10 seconds was ruled to be not guilty when the judge decided that a period of 10 seconds was not long enough to qualify for sexual harassment.

To make up for the shortage of available help, the coalition has decided to set up a hotline next year, Gau said.

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