At least 1 in 10 pregnant women are abused in Hong Kong, and the perpetrators are almost always their husbands, according to a new survey results.
Lau Ying, a social work researcher at the University of Hong Kong, uncovered the disturbing trend in a survey she conducted on 1,200 ethnic Chinese women in a postnatal ward at the Queen Mary hospital on Hong Kong island between July 2002 and February 2003.
“134, or 11.2 percent, of the women interviewed said they were abused, “she said.
That figure is markedly higher than abuse rates of between 3.9 percent and 8.3 percent found in similar surveys in places such as the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia.
Of the 134 abused women, 79.1 percent said they suffered psychological aggression, such as denigrating remarks, shouting and scolding.
Nearly half, or 49.3 percent, experienced sexual abuse. Most (82.1 percent) identified their husbands as perpetrators of the abuse.
“Actually, 11.2 percent is an underestimation. Chinese people care a lot about face and they tend not to tell outsiders of bad things that happen at home,” Lau told.
She also added that very few victims sought help.
Most of the women surveyed lived on Hong Kong island and are normally considered financially better off than women living in Kowloon or the New Territories.
Lau attributed possible causes of the abuse to husbands becoming jealous of their wives shifting their attention inadvertently to the unborn child, as well as sexual frustration.
Some were also mentally and financially unprepared for the baby and their frustration could result in anger.
Lau also found that younger women and those who were not married but cohabiting with partners were more likely to be abused.
“Younger women are less mature…and those cohabiting have fewer government resources, so they are more easily controlled (by their partners),” Lau said.
“Those abused tended to have less social support and were more isolated. Their husbands would not allow their wives to see their friends or go out,” she added.
Many of the abusive husbands were also found to be underpaid or jobless, she said.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD