Marital disputes getting more violent
Violence between married couples may be falling steeply but the level of violence used has not. This is indicated by an increasing proportion of such cases that attract criminal charges.
While the number of cases overall has more than halved since 2007, the number of criminal cases has fallen by only about 25 per cent, according to the Social Welfare Department.
And while the less serious occurrences once far outnumbered the criminal cases, there are now a higher proportion of criminal ones.
In 2007, of 6,400 cases, 2,505 or 39 per cent drew criminal charges. Last year, however, the picture had changed dramatically: of 3,170 cases, 1,900 or 60 per cent involved criminal violence.
A spokesman for the Social Welfare Department put the decrease in cases overall down to heightened awareness of the issue and the provision of various services for victims.
Among the victims is mainland immigrant Ah Ching, who married a Hongkonger five years ago and began to be assaulted six months later. They have a daughter who goes to kindergarten.
'He was often disgruntled after losing money betting on horses. And he began to take it out on me just about half a year after we got married,' said the woman, who did not want to give her full name. 'He liked to drink but that usually wasn't what got him into that sort of mood. It's always been money lost on horses. Since then, whenever he was annoyed, he hit me.
'I didn't dare call the police at first. I didn't want to.
'But one time, in a fit of rage he said he was going to kill me.'
She then called the police, who referred her case to the Social Welfare Department, where she received help with finding a new place to stay, finding another school for her daughter, going through the judicial process and a divorce.
'I'm really happy social workers approached me and helped me pull through the rough patch. They're like my friends now, and that's very helpful when I've lost so many in my life,' Ah Ching said.
Such support for victims of domestic violence was much needed because they found themselves filled with fear of facing sudden life changes, said Rosalynn Tse Mei-chu, who oversees the Po Leung Kok Tsui Lam Centre, which has been commissioned by the government to help such victims.
Mrs Fu, who is one of about 150 volunteers at the centre, said many of the cases she handled were marriages between a mainlander and a Hongkonger.
'I think the cultural difference has something to do with it,' she said, not wanting to give her full name.
The drop in the number of cases involving domestic violence between 2007 and last year