With couples preparing to celebrate Lovers’ Day tomorrow, the Modern Women’s Foundation (MWF) yesterday urged people to pay more attention to relationship violence by making public the results of research showing that more unmarried women in troubled relationships have fallen prey to violent crimes and domestic homicides at the hands of their partners than their married counterparts.
Research by the foundation on domestic and relationship violence as well as reported murders between January and last month showed 40 reported cases, of which 22 occurred in troubled relationships where the couple was unmarried.
Of the reported crimes involving unmarried couples, there were 15 homicides and three attempted murders with half of the killings premeditated, the research shows.
By comparison, there were two murders and five attempted murders committed by husbands during the same period.
MWF executive director Yao Shu-wen (姚淑文) said that among the 22 incidents of relationship violence among non-married couples, none of the women who had been assaulted had applied for protection orders that forbid abusers from approaching or assaulting victims.
“It means that the government has not done its job in letting people know what laws can do for them,” Yao said. “We have focused our attention on domestic violence [among the married], but the troubles that unmarried women face are equally, if not more, severe.”
Yao added that the lack of support systems for those in non-marital relationships also makes it difficult for women to speak out and seek help.
“Married couples usually have stronger connections with each other’s families which can provide support, mediate and intervene,” she said. “However, unmarried couples tend to keep things to themselves and in most cases, family members know little about what is going on.”
Lai Fang-yu (賴芳玉), a lawyer who has dedicated her career to helping victims of domestic violence, stressed the importance of seeking legal assistance when warning signs of an abusive relationship emerge.
“The Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法) can protect not only married couples and children, but divorced people and those who cohabit,” Lai said. “Same-sex couples can also seek legal protection under the act.”
The foundation’s research also showed that the biggest reason behind violent behavior was that one of the partners was seeking to end the relationship or was suspected of cheating — together these accounted for more than 86 percent of the incidents of relationship violence. In addition, most of the violence took place at the homes of the victim or the perpetrator and knives are the most common murder weapon, the foundation said.
The foundation has conducted surveys during lecture tours at high schools and colleges over the past three years and about 15 percent to 32 percent of respondents said they had been physically abused by their lovers, Yao said.
“We think schools and educational authorities should start working on relationship and anti-dating violence programs and make them available to youngsters,” she added.
Citing the socialite Justin Lee (李宗瑞), who has been accused of having drugged women and filming bedroom trysts with a number of starlets and models allegedly against their will, Yao said support from the general public is important to create a friendly environment for victims to stand up against violence.