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November 15, 2012

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Many victims keep domestic violence hidden

THE number of domestic violence cases has dropped significantly from 1,459 cases in 2009 to 621 cases in 2011 in Shanghai.

The decrease is attributed largely to more help from government-backed domestic violence assistance centers across the city.

But there are still many domestic violence problems that are not reported as they are hidden in family and divorce disputes, the Shanghai Women's Federation said yesterday.

In the first six months of this year, the federation said it received 253 complaints regarding domestic violence.

Some of them were like that of a local woman who was a victim of long-term domestic violence, and who had even tried to commit suicide, finally filed for divorce after she received psychological help and legal aid at a local anti-domestic violence shelter, the federation said.

The victim, identified as Xiao Yun, was a 47-year-old Shanghai native living in the city's rural area. She told the shelter her nightmare began when she married her husband, a compulsive gambler, at 20. The husband not only took all the family savings but also beat her after losing money, which caused her to miscarry four times. The shelter said she suffered from depression and tried to commit suicide.

"Growing up in the rural area, Xiao Yun was a very traditional Chinese woman who firmly believed she should stick with her husband all her life and could not make the family shame public," said Lu Ronggen, deputy director of the federation's rights and interests department.

"She could no longer stand the violence but dared not ask for a divorce. So she chose suicide as a way to flee from the violence," Lu said.

Xiao Yun was rescued and sent to a nearby domestic violence shelter where psychologists, legal experts and social workers were there to help.

"At first, She couldn't get over the terrible memories that had haunted her for so many years, let alone fight back," Lu said. "We contacted local police to admonish her husband to stop the violence. Her mental outlook changed a lot after we told her the news," he said. Xiao Yun finally filed for divorce.

One main reason some cases remain hidden is that some Chinese women still hold the traditional concept that they don't want domestic shame to be public. Sometimes the degree of violence is not severe enough for police to take action.

In China, up to 30 percent of women in 270 million families have suffered domestic violence, according to a survey done by All-China Women's Federation.


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