“About one year after we got married, he showed a propensity for violence. Day after day he became irritable and started drinking to excess. I was often abused, insulted and beaten, and forced to have sex with him in the middle of the night. Now, I’m physically and mentally damaged, developing psychasthenia and insomnia…
I did turn to the police for help, then to the CAW lawyers as well. However, due to the language barriers, the requirement of translation for every communication makes it impossible to solve the problem on time.
I remember one time when it was almost midnight, he came back home drunk and forced me to get out. It was raining heavily, and I was wondering on the street, alone. I was really desperate…”
—-says Ms.Cheng, a Chinese lady in Belgium.
In March 2020, during the global spread of pandemic, members of SRP team learned in Belgium that there are many Chinese women who need help from domestic violence. After investigation, we found out that the situation are more severe than expected…
Violence, threat, insult, discrimination, torture…
The truth is far worse than the news says…
Shortly before SRP received the help request from Ms. Xia Qing’an (pseudonym), she suffered another domestic violence. The police, whom she was trying to get help from, only conducted perfunctory mediation and left hastily.
Ten years ago, Mrs. Xia came to Belgium as an oversea student. During this time, she met her current husband, who comes from the Dutch-speaking region in Belgium. At that time, Mrs. Xia was completely unaware of the fact that, the seemingly “nice match” was actually the start of her nightmare.
“During all these years in Belgium, I always miss the time when I was just an oversea student—at least it was under my own control. The family life that follows is just miserable…Every time when a domestic violence happened, I came to the police, but their words did nothing except making me feel helpless as a foreigner. The polices always stand on his side and never consider the difficulties and bitterness of a foreign woman…But for all those sufferings, I never said a word to my family to let them worry. The only thing I can do, after coaxing my baby to sleep, was to bury all my grievance and pain in the pillow through tears…”
Ms. Xia and her abusive husband have two kids who are still at their young ages. Three years ago, when she was pregnant with her daughter, her husband punched her hard on the head and she went to the hospital for a check-up. The incident even alerted the police. But this violent game ended absurdly with the court ruling that the man was fined just 200 euros.
However, the tragedy did not stop there. It has long been common for Ms.Xia be violently beaten for trivial matters.
Just last year, she was kicked hard by her husband, causing her tailbone to hit the drawer of the cabinet. The severe pain accompanied her for two months. Apart from that, that man would, from time to time, insult her with words like “bitch” and “whore”, and even forced her admit that he was right.
“Countless times, I wanted to leave him with my children, but it is not that easy. When it comes to matters like changing nationality, I have to negotiate with him, and he will never agree.
There are only three things that he cares about—food, money and sex. I have severe menstrual cramps, so I bought a two-month course of medicine for dysmenorrhea treatment. It requires no sex during the medicament and we agreed on it in advance. But he broke the promise in just a few days. In one afternoon in February he suddenly took off his cloths and started to force me…
I really wanted to escape, from this kind of life that I hate so much. But at the moment, the children are still so young that I have to take care of them full-time. I can’t go out working. Therefore, I am not financially independent and still have to rely on him for the time being…”
The spread of epidemic this year has aggravated Ms. Xia’s plight. In the face of capricious violence, she was forced to continue to get along with the abuser without any chance to escape for a while, due to the constraints of home quarantine and shortage of resources.
“I suffered a lot because of the different thinking of East and West during the pandemic. Despite my repeated reminders, I still didn’t get his respect. Due to home quarantine, I experienced more frequent and serious domestic violence from him. I called the embassy for help and was told there was nothing they could do for this situation and suggested me to seek help from police and lawyers. I reported to the police again, but the police were busier during the pandemic, and all they could do is simple persuasion and mediation, which was not helpful at all. At this difficult time, my children and I don’t even have anywhere else to hide…
Home is supposed to be a shelter for everyone, but for victims of domestic violence, it is a hidden nest of crisis. During the global pandemic, rising unemployment, increasing psychological anxiety and financial pressure, shortage of community aid resources, social isolation… all kinds of reasons have made domestic violence an invisible time bomb that have detonated quietly all over the world. At the same time, there are less domestic violence cases taken on by the local police, the ability and efficiency of follow-up processing have also plummeted, resulting in a difficult situation of more harm and less shelter.
The phenomenon of domestic violence is enough to be infuriating, let alone when such a tragic experience happened to a Chinese woman wandering overseas. Our further investigation found that immigrant women are a high-risk group of domestic violence, and Chinese women account for a higher proportion of victims.
Many overseas Chinese women have suffered domestic violence and sexual assault for a long time, and they have nowhere to ask for help because of problems such as language, consciousness, culture, nationality, and social restrictions. Moreover, the pandemic has intensified the exclusion and discrimination against overseas Chinese in various places.As a result of various factors, Chinese women from overseas have become the main victims of all kinds of violent crimes, but they are subject to objective conditions and usually fail at defending their rights reasonably. Therefore, the help from other Chinese people is particularly important for Chinese women who suffered domestic violence during the pandemic.
The above-mentioned stories of the Chinese woman only reveal a tip of the dark iceberg, and the following data may show you a stronger undercurrent.
In the UN Women report on violence against women, research data from more than 80 countries show that around 30 % of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime; between 23.2 and 37.7 % of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner at the national and regional levels.
One-quarter of women and one-ninth of men in the U.S. suffer from severe physical and sexual violence caused by intimate partners, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and sexually transmitted diseases from partner tracking, according to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV). In the UK, more than 90% of victims of domestic violence are women, and 83% have experienced more than 10 violent crimes.Domestic violence poses a great threat to women’s lives.
Across the globe, Chinese women suffer from intimate relationship violence, with the highest proportion of Chinese women among all victims of domestic violence. In New York City in 2009, for example, the proportion of domestic violence cases involving immigrants rose from 49 % to 62 % in the past five years, while the proportion of domestic violence crimes in the city involved more than 70 % of Chinese families which covered more than 4,000 cases. It’s not just happening in New York, but Chinese women around the world are facing such a crisis.
There are countless women in misery and suffering waiting for rescue, and the harm suffered by all disadvantaged women worldwide is far more than a few lines of data can tell. For those victims, behind every reported or unreported case related to domestic violence, there has been a long-term psychological and physical mutilation. The reasons for the infringement of the rights and interests of overseas Chinese women involve all aspects of the family, social environment, etc. Inevitably, instant help and sustainable support from many aspects to protect their rights are needed. And all these require our joint efforts.
Overseas Women’s Protection Project
The Overseas Women’s Protection Project initiated by SRP is a long-term voluntary service project focusing on disadvantaged Chinese women living overseas. It is centered on domestic violence and attempted to establish a global relief network starting from Belgium to help victimized women defend their rights and get out of misery. On the basis of long-term cooperation with diverse organizations, institutions and expert consultants, the project will provide multi-dimensional support mainly in language, psychology, medical and legal assistance at various national outlets, and is committed to improving the lives of targeted female groups, encouraging their self-empowerment, lengthening the aiding list through the form of community, and forming a virtuous circle of mutual support. It plans to start a pilot program in Belgium from July 2020, and it will cover 30 countries with the most Chinese in the world in next two years.
Starting from the domestic violence topic, SRP will help overseas Chinese women get rid of their insecure and unequal situations, gradually realize self-empowerment, and realize a virtuous circle of mutual support by the means of community.
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Social Responsibility Practitioners (SRP) is a platform built by a group of young people at home and abroad who are concerned about China’s social responsibility and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It aims to use youth power to practice social responsibility, record and spread social responsibility practices, deepen the awareness of social responsibility of citizens, build a network of information exchange and cooperation in the field of social responsibility, even to promote China’s practice of the UN SDGs. Its members include top universities at home and abroad, such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Ivy League in the United States. They have strong practical ability and charity, and are committed to contributing to social responsibility.
The project will be divided into two main stages: the first stage and the later stage. The support provided in the early stage will focus on five aspects: comprehensive management support, language support, psychological support, shelter support and community support. In the later stage, legal support, medical support, educational support, channel support and economic support will be gradually rolled out and established.
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Basic Process of applying for protection:
● Add “SRP Overseas Female Assistant” WeChat in the [Need Help] column at the end of this article, please note the region and name (nickname is acceptable);
● The assistant will build a three-person WeChat group for help seekers and arrange a person in charge of the integrated management office according to the regional teams and shift schedules;
● Women seeking help can fully communicate their own situation and needs in the WeChat group. The contact person will develop a short- and long-term assistance plan for each victimized woman, and manage, record, support, and communicate.
—- Project Partners —-
Orange umbrella\Cheng Yu San
Beijing Qian Qian Law Firm
The Maple Women’s Psychological Counseling Center Beijing
Equality – Beijing (Women’s rights and gender equlity)
A Mother Mental Health Service Center in Beijing
China White Ribbon Volunteer Network Project
Tongyu Rainbow Violence Terminal
Lean In College
Viva la Vida
Impact Hub Shanghai
Shanghai Huidiji Psychological Care Center for Charity People
Spiritual and Beautiful
New Mother Psychological Support League
United Kingdom Chinese Women’s League (UKCWC)
China Youth Network (CYN)
Tsinghua University Global Common Development Institute-Horizon Global Youth Common Development Program (Horizon Program)
—- Project Partners in Belgium —-
Chinese Women’s Federation in Belgium
Federation of Chinese Juvenile in Belgium (FCJV)
Belgium-Chinese Silk Road Chamber of Commerce
Association of Qingtian Compatriots in Belgium
Bilishi CHWL (Wechat Official Account:比利时吃喝玩乐)
Special thanks to Shimo Document for its support to the online database of overseas women protection projects!
WeChat account of overseas female assistants: SRP-WomenAid
Or scan the following QR code:
Please note the area and name (nickname is acceptable)