Thousands call new Chinese domestic violence helpline app

BEIJING (Reuters) – Thousands of Chinese women have called a new domestic violence helpline app within days of its launch, its founder said.

Campaigners say domestic violence cases have risen sharply during the pandemic as strict restrictions kept people locked in with abusers and increased financial and personal pressures.

Around 13,000 people, the vast majority of them women, used the Domestic Violence Help service in its first five days, Li Ying, a rights lawyer who set it up on the popular WeChat mobile platform, said in an interview.

That compared with just 600 people who used the conventional telephone helpline run by her Beijing-based Yuanzhong Family & Community Development Service Center in all of 2021, Li added.

“When the pandemic first started, people who came to seek consultations from us on domestic violence grew 21% compared to the same period in previous years. The severity increased too,” Li told Zhengmian Lianjie, a media outlet on WeChat, on Monday.

“This May was a peak. And there were quite a lot of (cases) in June. It has to do with the repeated COVID-19 outbreaks.”

The Center opened the WeChat service on Aug. 18. Within its first week, more than 200 people had directly asked for help in an abusive situation, Li said.

In June, surveillance footage of men assaulting women at a restaurant unleashed a flood of online outrage and renewing a debate over the treatment of women.

(Reporting by Albee Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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