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Operation Santa Claus

The women helping Hong Kong victims of sexual abuse fight back

With free legal advice and a sensitive approach, a local organisation helps victims of harassment or assault access their legal rights

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 November, 2017, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 3:04pm

A victim of workplace sexual harassment, “A” (not her real name) no longer keeps silent about what has happened.

She has decided to take her case to court.

Without giving details about the incident for legal reasons, the 22-year-old said she believed justice would be done, and that she was helping others by helping herself.

“If someone can help you deal with the matter and let the perpetrator know he has done something wrong, you are actually helping to save someone from becoming the next victim,” A said.

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She stressed the importance of facing the issue of sexual harassment head-on.

“There’s no point getting upset about it. It’s not my fault. It’s the perpetrator who was at fault,” A said.

And she is not alone in the case. She has received support from the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, an NGO established in 1997.

The charity provides A with free legal consultation, with lawyers giving her advice pro bono on her rights and the legal process.

The service is as a whole called the Legal Clinic for Victims of Gender-Based Violence, and seeks to help victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment to fight for justice. The victims may also get advice from the legal clinic on making complaints to Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission and on conciliation procedures.

The project is an expanded service provided with the help of funding from Operation Santa Claus, an annual donation drive organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

They stay alert and understand the needs of victims
Eva Leung, Legal Clinic for Victims of Gender-Based Violence

The association will also create a special legal clinic run by experienced social workers, and a hotline for victims of sexual abuse.

Eva Leung Yee-wah, a project officer at the charitable organisation, noted the sensitive nature of cases of sexual violence and sexual harassment. She said procedures were in place to avoid the process causing distress or harm to victims.

“Every volunteer, social worker and even lawyer working at the legal clinic has received training. They stay alert and understand the needs of victims,” she said.

Leung said lawyers would examine the relevant cases before meeting with victims to spare them the ordeal of giving details about their traumatic experiences over and over.

Linda Wong Sau-yung, executive director of the association, said many women and girls did not know where to seek help when they encountered sexual harassment or violence.

“They know little about their legal rights,” Wong said.

“Sex is still a taboo in Hong Kong society,” she said. “The local community has yet to manifest a proper concern for the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence.”