Following is the speech by the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Dr E K Yeoh, in the motion debate on "Sexual Violence" in the Legislative Council today (April 12):
Following on from the Secretary for Security's remarks, I should like to inform Honourable Members of the assistance available to victims and the training provided to professionals in the medical and welfare fields.
Assistance to victims
Given that the experience of victims in such cases will always be traumatic, the relevant authorities handle victims as sympathetically and sensitively as possible with the aim of helping them to recover as soon as possible. In most instances, a victim approaches one of the following - the Police, health and welfare services - for assistance. The assistance may take many forms including testing for pregnancy (and post-contraception) and sexually transmitted diseases; treating injuries sustained which may require hospitalization; counselling; collection of forensic evidence for prosecution purposes, etc.
Whether a victim goes to the Police, health and welfare services for assistance, the authorities concerned will adopt a co-ordinated multi-disciplinary approach in the treatment of the victim. For example, in the case of the Hospital Authority (HA), there is a set of comprehensive guidelines on management of victims of sexual assaults in its hospitals, including services to be provided by A&E doctors, as well as coordination in the collection of forensic samples by forensic pathologists and provision of psychological and counselling support by clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and medical social workers. In the case of SWD, social workers will provide counselling with the assistance of clinical psychologists if necessary, assess the victim's need for medical service and advise the victim to report to the Police. They will escort the victim to hospitals or the Police and liaise with medical social workers or the Police, as the case may be. They will also arrange temporary accommodation (if required), other welfare assistance and follow-up services to the victim and other family members.
A multi-disciplinary approach is adopted between the various authorities and efficient co-operation stressed. By way of example, I should like to highlight the fact that since 1995, the Police and SWD have instituted a system to assist victims under 17 or who are mentally incapacitated. Police officers from the Child Abuse Investigation Units and social workers from the Family and Child Protective Service Units conduct joint investigations into cases. When required, clinical psychologists also take part. The purpose of this joint multi-disciplinary intervention is to minimize the trauma of the victim from having to repeat the experience to different professionals during the investigation process.
Some adult victims of sexual violence are also victims of domestic violence. SWD has recently strengthened and streamlined the services available for this group. Social workers in the Family and Child Protective Service Units provide a one-stop service for victims of domestic violence thereby handling victims' needs in a more focused manner. Victims and/or families are provided with co-ordinated assistance, including a package of social, financial, medical, legal services, etc, so that their needs can be addressed in a holistic manner.
Training of professionals
The training available for the professionals involved is clearly of great importance. In the health care setting, clinicians focus on ensuring victims' physical and psychological well-being and this is adequately reflected in their training. Social workers handling these cases are provided with specialized knowledge and skills through regular in-service training, both in Hong Kong and overseas. Caseworkers and clinical psychologists in SWD and police officers involved in Child Protection Special Investigation Teams have all received specialist training in the various aspects of their work with particular emphasis on handling victims in a sympathetic manner. Training programmes are jointly organized by SWD and the Police not only for their staff but also for NGOs, HA and Education Department personnel. Regular refresher courses are organized to upgrade the standards of these professionals.
Some Members have suggested that a rape crisis centre should be established. In fact, we are currently processing an NGO's proposal for the setting up of such a centre for rape victims. Being a pilot project, the centre provides a package of co-ordinated services including 24-hour hotline counselling, out-reaching services, escort victims to the Police or hospitals, support groups; training and support for professionals; and organizing publicity and promotional activities.
The procedures adopted by the various authorities are kept under regular review with the aim of bringing about further improvement, achieving better co-ordination and minimizing unnecessary duplication. However, I agree that there is a case to formalize these arrangements and we therefore would set up an inter-departmental working group, on which all relevant authorities are represented, to address this issue. This will ensure greater co-ordination between the relevant authorities and provide a forum for discussion with concerned NGOs.
Thank you, Madam President.
End/Wednesday, April 12, 2000