This paper is aimed at examining the domestic violence shelter environment in South Korea and in the USA. In particular, it will analyze the differences between the environment and legal basis for the creation of shelters in both countries. The paper will also provide recommendations about how to facilitate protection from domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Shelter Environment in the USA
To begin with, domestic violence is a common problem is the USA. According to the statistics, about 20 people per minute become the victims of domestic violence in this country. Thus, the total number of victims is larger than 10 million people (NCADV). In many cases, victimized people who abandon their abusers have no shelter and support. Therefore, establishing assistance programs that would provide shelter to these people must be a priority.
In the USA, there exists a wide network of shelters available for the victims of domestic violence. Thus, according to the statistics, in the U.S. there are almost 1,800 domestic violence programs that provide such services as support, 24-hour emergency hotline, assistance with housing, food and clothing as well as the provision of legal support and shelter. Besides, approximately 1,200 of these programs give shelter as a part of their activities.
One of the most recognized programs addressing the discussed in this paper problem is the Middle Way House which is an organization that was formed to build a community free from violence. Specifically, the program provides support to the victims of violence by helping them find jobs and housing as well as overcome the negative psychological impact of violence. Moreover, the program works on increasing people’s awareness of this critical issue.
Furthermore, domestic victimization includes not only physical or sexual abuse; it can also often lead to physical and psychological traumas. Thus, many studies have proven the relationship between intimate partner violence, depression, and suicidal behavior. Therefore, domestic violence programs should provide psychological rehabilitation courses for the victims and their children. Nevertheless, about one third of the battered women who went through rehabilitation programs finally return to their abusers. Consequently, there is a need for a complex approach to the problem which would treat not only victims but also abusers. Indeed, there have been created special batter’s programs that encourage abusers to change their attitude and behavior. Even though they are very successful, it would be even more efficient to create programs to treat couples together.
To provide some statistics, domestic violence was the reason of 28% cases of homelessness. Therefore, the provision of shelter is essential in order to meet the needs of people who escape from domestic violence. However, the problem is that domestic violence shelters accept only the US residents, and people without a green card are not legally entitled to stay in the shelter. As a result, despite a wide variety of shelters, a great number of requests for housing assistance are still not met.
Domestic Violence Shelter Environment in South Korea
If to compare, the domestic violence shelter environment in South Korea is even in worse condition than in the United States because violence is a regular issue in the Korean culture. All Korean people are immersed in violence. Thus, a 1986 study involving face-to-face interviews with a sample of 150 Korean women living in Chicago revealed that 60% of women experienced physical abuse by an intimate partner sometime in their lives. Moreover, 36.7% of them reported sexual violence by an intimate partner. The statistical data suggest that domestic violence is a prevalent incident in South Korea.
There are many reasons behind spousal violence in Korea. In this country, a family-oriented structure of the society, close attachment to relatives by blood, patriarchal headship and dominance of men over women, public prejudice toward divorce, public ignorance and tolerance of spousal violence, and lack of legal support and community networks, are common tendencies. However, the roots of violence in the oriental world derive from the patriarchal order in the society.Women are blamed for all the misfortunes of a family in the male-centered Confucian society. As a result, domestic violence is often justified in Korea.
Due to public justification of domestic violence, the number of shelters for victims in South Korea is smaller compared to the U.S. Moreover, there are no shelters in many regions at all. Besides, the majority of existent shelters are small and have a limited number of places. As a result, women with children, women with HIV or disabilities often face difficulties entering a shelter.
Despite all the complexity of the issue, neither the society nor the authorities take it into consideration seriously. The Korean society often considers violence in the family as a personal problem where no one should interfere. What is more, the victims themselves hold this belief that spousal abuse is a mild family problem. Moreover, the police have similar attitude to the problem.
As a result of deeply-rooted tolerance to domestic violence in the Korean society, the current services provided for victims are not sufficient. The government provides shelters and counseling centers for the victims of domestic violence only for a short time. Victims can stay no more than six months there unless they have an extension. Furthermore, Korea does not treat all victims of abuse equally. Thus, although men and children also suffer abuse, there are currently no shelters for them in the country yet. However, there exists a hotline for the male victims of domestic violence in Korea.
The Legal Basis for Creating Shelters in South Korea and the USA
The USA government has passed several laws addressing the problem of spousal abuse. The first one, the Family Violence Prevention Act, came into force in 1984. Later, in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act was passed. It provided funding for programs to support women who suffered domestic abuse including rape, beating, sexual assault, and stalking. In addition, it imposed stricter penalties on the abusers. In 2000, the USA passed the Violence Against Woman Act which improved the existing legal tools and programs addressing domestic violence. The latest legal document to regulate the issue was the Violence Against Women Act National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. It expands traditional housing options and creates permanent housing solutions for homeless victims of domestic violence. In addition, there are laws targeted at children suffering physical or sexual abuse at home as well as the related issue of homelessness and runaway (The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 1974).
On the other hand, Korea has two pieces of domestic violence legislation. These are the Special Act on Domestic Violence (the Punishment Act) and the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Victim Protection Act (the Protection Act) that were introduced in 1997. Additionally, there was created the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family that developed the National Strategy for protection against domestic violence. Legal support to victims of domestic violence is also guaranteed by The Hague Convention and Law on Free Legal Aid. However, regardless of functioning of these acts, the rate of domestic violence has not decreased in Korea. Instead, it is constantly increasing. Therefore, South Korea has developed and established a National Program for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights for 2013-2016.
The analysis provided above helped to indicate the major problems in the domestic violence shelter environment in the USA and South Korea. It was indicated that the USA needs to create an effective system of inter-agency cooperation in cases of domestic violence. Moreover, it should establish close links between shelters and other key organizations such as hospitals, centers for legal advice, and police in order to help the victims.
South Korea also needs to take some measures to facilitate the development of domestic violence assistance programs. First, the government should allocate public funds or look for sponsors in order to create a sufficient number of shelters available for women survivors of the violence in all regions of the country. Second, there is a need for collaboration with the international organizations experienced in working with the aim to protect women from violence. Third, the state should effectively implement the National Strategy for Protection against Domestic Violence for 2011-2016. Finally, the state and local governments ought to establish more counseling centers for victims of domestic violence that would cooperate with medical institutions.
To summarize, domestic violence is a critical issue all over the world. Thousands of women, men and children suffer abuse in families. It has negative effects on victims including health issues, depression and stress, increased suicide rate, etc. Therefore, the governments of the U.S. and South Korea take decisive measures to combat the problem. There are many assistance programs for victims of domestic violence that provide a wide range of services such as housing and shelter. However, they do not address all victims equally; there are still people that have difficulties in accessing shelters. Therefore, the legal authorities and international organizations should examine the problem and make all possible efforts to meet the needs of the victims of domestic violence better.