The United Nations recently urged action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence due to Covid-19 as many victims are now trapped in the same household as their perpetrators. According to The New York Times, domestic violence hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports and the safety of victims are at the forefront of this crisis and many health specialists state that it is no surprise that domestic violence cases rise when families are forced to spend more time together.
So, what can victims do when they are being terrorized at home during lockdown or when social distancing measures are in place and home is meant to be a “safe zone”?
First and foremost, it is important that victims feel safe enough to reach out to family and friends – finding a way to safely ask for help is the first step. A second step is to be able to remove oneself from the very space that causes anxiety, fear, intimidation and violence. Given the dynamics of the current global crisis with Covid-19, many families, friends, organizations and health specialists are providing additional services/assistance to those in need, including private chat groups to alert others you are in need of help.
In Hong Kong, social organizations are also on-hand and available to assist domestic violence victims including Harmony House which has a separate women, men and children hotline or the Social Welfare Department of Hong Kong which provides victim support for family violence.
For your reference, here are the linked websites for Harmony House and the Social Welfare Department of Hong Kong.
- Harmony House: https://www.harmonyhousehk.org/eng
- Social Welfare Department of Hong Kong: https://www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/site_pubsvc/page_family/sub_listofserv/id_VSPforVFV/
Domestic violence victims can also seek assistance through the Family Court in Hong Kong and are eligible for protection under the Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Ordinance (Cap. 189). Under this Ordinance, a victim can apply for an injunction order.
When you apply for an injunction order, you can ask the Court to:
- Stop the offender from using violence or threat of violence against you or a child living with you; or
- Exclude the offender from the matrimonial home regardless of ownership of the property and to prevent the offender from entering into the home.
These requests can be made by way of:
- Non-molestation Order: asking the Family Court to restrain the offender from molesting you or restraining the offender from molesting your child. In Hong Kong, molestation is interpreted to cover use or threat of violence which can be widely interpreted by the Court.
- Ouster Order: asking the Family Court to prohibit the offender from entering or remaining in the home, a specified part of the home or specified area whether or not you live in that area
- Re-entry Order: asking the Family Court to permit you to enter and remain in the home or a specified part, or permit your child to enter and remain in the home.
- Participation in a Programme Order: asking the Family Court to order that the offender participate in a Programme approved by and arranged by the Director of Social Welfare aimed at changing the attitude and behaviour
- Variation or Suspension of Custody or Access Order: asking the Family Court to vary or suspend orders with respect to custody or access related to your child in your application.
If the Family Court issues an injunction order to prevent a perpetrator from molesting you and continued harassment, the order may last up to a maximum of 24 months and may be renewed if the Family Court sees fit. Once an injunction order has been made, the perpetrator must comply and if an authorization of arrest has been made by the Court, the perpetrator will be arrested by a police officer if the order is breached.
If you’re a victim requiring Family Court assistance, you can also contact the Family Court directly and even during Covid-19 times, the Family Court is hearing emergency applications so do not be apprehensive about seeking help from the Family Court.
Your application can be filed with The Family Court Registry which is located at:
M2, Wanchai Law Courts, Wanchai Tower, 12 Harbour Road, Hong Kong
Telephone: 852 2840 1218
Fax: 852 2523 9170
Email: [email protected]
To apply for an injunction in Hong Kong, you must fill out the following:
- An Application
- An Ex-Parte Summons which is an emergency application where there is imminent risk of harm
- A supporting affidavit where you outline what actually occurred and it is signed under oath
- A draft order containing the orders or remedies you are seeking
- An affidavit of personal service to be filed by the server once personal service has been accomplished
When filing your application for an injunction and you prepare an affidavit, be sure to provide as much detail as possible about the molestation and other relevant information including any imminent harm you are in fear of. The more detailed, the better so the Family Court can issue the appropriate relief based on the information you provide.
Finally, it is important to note that domestic violence does not have to only be characterized by physical abuse, but can also include verbal and psychological abuse. If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse, please reach out to family, friends, domestic violence assistance organizations or the police at 999 so you can get the help you need during these turbulent times.