Domestic Violence during COVID-19: Solutions for Affected Individuals
As people have been working from home for weeks now and with children being schooled from home, things can get tense in the family home, especially in the small spaces we share in Hong Kong. A number of articles in South China Morning Post, BBC, and CNN have featured articles indicating that there is an uptick in domestic violence cases as people shelter in place.
In urgent situations, we recommend that people contact the authorities for assistance. For those who need other forms of assistance, there is relief in the Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance (“DCRVO” or the “Ordinance“), which came into force on 1 January 2010 for the purpose of providing “protection of persons from violence in domestic and cohabitation relationships”.
The DCRVO covers domestic violence between spouses, former spouses, cohabitants, and relatives. Same sex partners are also covered under the DCRVO.
Before granting an order under the Ordinance, the court must be satisfied that the person applying for an order (Applicant) has been “molested”. This word is normally given a wide interpretation: in addition to physical and sexual assault, vexing, pestering, and annoying behaviour are all words that have been used to describe molestation.
Under the Ordinance, there are three orders that can be made: non-molestation, ouster, and re-entry.
A re-entry order commands that the Respondent – the person against whom the order is being sought – permit the Applicant to enter and remain in a location. This order would apply in a situation where the Applicant has left the family home, for example, and wants to return, but the Respondent refuses to allow the Applicant back into the home.
An ouster order restrains the Respondent from entering or remaining in the family home or other specified area in the home. In this situation the Respondent would not be allowed inside the family home at all or would be barred from entering certain locations, such as the Applicant’s bedroom.
A non-molestation order restrains the Respondent from molesting the Applicant. When issuing a non-molestation order, the court can order a Respondent to participate in a programme aimed at changing his/her “attitude and behaviour”, such as training on anger management or alcohol abuse.
It is important to note that, statistically speaking, women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, but men made up approximately 15% of reported cases in Hong Kong in 2018.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and your situation is urgent, call the police for assistance on 999. For non-urgent situations, you may consult community resources where free or low cost resources are available. In addition, we at JC Legal are available to discuss your concerns in confidence in Cantonese, Mandarin, or English.
Kimberly practices Family Law in Hong Kong at JC Legal. She is also licensed in the State of New York where she worked as a litigator in the federal court system as an Assistant Attorney General. Kimberly’s other passion is training. She has conducted hundreds of hours of risk management, legal drafting, and management training in the Greater China area.
Published on LegalClarus on 10 May 2020
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