By Liang Ju Hou, Wei Chou Chen
“I was raped in Taiwan, but I haven’t obtained any legal justice,” said Alice (pseudonym), a migrant worker interviewed by Apple Daily. This kind of case is common, lawyers familiar with the issue said, and the indictment rate of sexual abuse cases of migrant worker might be below 30%. The reasons behind it include language barrier, lack of evidence, and common stereotype of victims.
Shortage of Professional Interpreter
“Language barrier is the major problem for the migrant workers who face legal cases in Taiwan,” said Ching-Wen Lin, a lawyer working for Legal Aid Foundation and familiar with sexual abuse cases.
She explained that if a foreign victim reports a case, police officer will first contact with the “Foreign Affairs Police,” who are responsible for finding interpreter to help. Then the officer will talk with the victim and make a report with the interpreter and the Women and Children Protection Brigade.
“However, most interpreters can only speak in the victim’s language, but they know nothing about Taiwanese law,” Lin emphasized.
Tzu Jung Wang, a judge of Yunlin District Court, stressed that it’s difficult to be a professional legal interpreter, because he or she has to understand legal terms and translate foreign language correctly at the same time. “You need to be highly skilled to protect the plaintiff when being in court,” he said.
Nevertheless, there is no training system for legal interpreter in Taiwan, so the current interpreters are unprofessional foreign spouse or Chinese-speaking migrants, said Peter Chan, the establisher of Taiwan Judicial Interpreters Association.
As a result, he said, although every Prosecutors Office or court works with a group of interpreters, many of them can’t translate properly and would influence the outcome of case.
The Stereotype of “Perfect Victim”
In addition, some prosecutors handle sexual abuse cases of migrant worker with “the Rules of Experience,” and might make wrong judgements, said Yi Ting Li, a Taiwanese lawyer familiar with sexual abuse cases.
“For instance, they think every sexual abuse victim would ask for help immediately, and wouldn’t stay in dangerous place. However, those assaulted migrant workers are powerless and vulnerable compared with their perpetrators, who are usually their employers,” said Li.
Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, Director of Service Center and Shelter for Migrant Workers in Taoyuan City, also said that some prosecutors tend to imagine those raped foreign workers as “Perfect Victim,” which means they must be “weak but tough at the same time.”
Those prosecutors would question the foreign victims: ”why didn’t you call for help or run away when being assaulted?” They don’t understand that most of foreign victims are too scared to resist against their perpetrators, Wong explained.
If a foreign victim doesn’t look like “Perfect Victim,” Li analyzed, it’s possible that the perpetrator will not be charged.
Take Alice’s case as an example, even the lawyer has provided evidences such as an object with perpetrator’s semen, or a medical report of post-traumatic stress disorder, the prosecutor still doubted why Alice didn’t run away and eventually decided not to charge the perpetrator.
Lack of Evidence
“In terms of sexual abuse case, it’s not easy to charge the perpetrator,” Ching-Wen Lin emphasized. Usually, sexual assaults take place in closed spaces such as a room, with only the perpetrator and the victim at the scene, so it’s difficult to find strong evidence to prove the criminal act.
On average, according to Ministry of Justice’s data, more than 4000 sexual abuse cases are reported every year in Taiwan. Nevertheless, due to the lack of evidence, the indictment rate of sexual abuse cases of migrant worker is around 30% or even lower, Lin estimated.
Because of the cultural and language barriers, many abused migrant workers don’t know how to speak out their horrible experience. In some cases, “the perpetrator would even lie that it’s a consensual sex act, but not a rape,” Lin said.
Compared with other types of criminal case, it’s harder for prosecutors to make judgements of sexual abuse cases. Yi Ting Li suggested, “So, when prosecutors or judges try to determine the plausibility of victim’s testimony, the psychiatric reports should be regarded as evidence.”