Employees at relevant service providers should be better treated
Systems are needed to enhance the public’s sensitivity toward minorities
In its celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the National Conference on Women announced that Jarim Welfare Foundation epitomizes gender inequality in Korea. The two directors of the Foundation are reported to have committed sexual violence against 10 females with disability for the last two decades. Furthermore, the employees of the Foundation who reported the case received unfair treatment. Nevertheless, such cases remain unrevealed because it is those with mental retardation who are victimized.
As part of its job, Sexual Violence Relief Centers located throughout the nation provide counseling services to the disabled. According to the National Association of Sexual Violence Relief Centers, the intellectually disabled makes up 73% of the total number of disabled victims of sexual violence. By age groups, while children and adolescents represent 28%, adults account for 72% most of which are women.
The Association explained “Sexual violence against women with intellectual disability takes place most frequently. That is attributable to the fact that people think of the intellectually disabled as ‘eternal children.’ Such framework dissuades the society from protecting, monitoring, and educating them. Consequently, their social relations which are already narrow remain limited. The situation is especially severe for women.”
Also, there is a lack of social support that should be provided to women victims who received systematic education. Oftentimes, therefore, cases are disclosed only when female victims become pregnant or develop serious physical injuries.
Roughly 70% of cases are committed by relatives or acquaintances of victims, making it easy for the crime to persist and remain concealed. In such cases, perpetrators misuse their knowledge about the nature of disabilities of victims. To break the vicious cycle, there has been a growing need to provide family members of victims, social service providers, and the public with educational programs to enhance prevention against sexual violence and to raise their understanding about people with disabilities.
Director Bae Bokjoo of Women With Disabilities Empathy said “The crime will decrease when the public has a better understanding about the nature of intellectual disability. We have to focus on improving people’s sensitivity toward human rights to efficiently implement support measures currently in place. If not, secondary victimization will occur. Our first step would be to provide an environment where people are educated to develop their understanding about ‘different’ people. One of effective ways to raise our sensitivity toward social minorities is to provide the education in preschool.”
Director Bae pointed out some concerns about the current support system: Currently, there are only 7~8 shelters with capacity of 15-20 people. Severely disabled people or those who have difficulties in communicating with others are less qualified than those who have the ability to lead a community life. Also, relevant government authorities have to provide long-term housings such as a ‘Group Home’ where victims can live after their temporary stay in shelters.
There has been criticism that working conditions of employees at relevant service providers are poor. Their fatigue in the workplace aggravates at a rapid pace because their workload is much heavier than those who provide support for victims without intelligent disability. For instance, those whose cognitive functioning is impaired need to be accompanied by when they go through investigation as well as be provided with counseling. To empower victims, help them recover quickly, and to provide them with high quality services, working conditions of relevant service providers should be upgraded.
In 2009, nation-wide Sexual Violence Relief Centers for the Disabled designated the second week of April as a special week to exert effort to fight violence against women with disabilities. Since then, centers have launched annual campaigns at a national level. For this year, the special week would be celebrated during the first week because local elections are to be held in the second week. On April 4, street campaigns will take place in Uineungjeongi Cultural Street in Daejeon.