Even men can suf­fer do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

The Men­tougou district court in western Bei­jing re­cently is­sued a re­strain­ing or­der on a woman to pro­tect her hus­band, sur­named Zhang, from do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. It is the first such or­der to be is­sued in Bei­jing, and one of the first of its kind na­tion­wide.

The court or­der, not sur­pris­ingly, has sparked a de­bate on so­cial me­dia. While many ne­ti­zens have ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for the man, some say they do not be­lieve a man can be beaten up by his wife. A few have even made fun of Zhang, say­ing he is “not man enough” and “a true man should fight back”.

There is a com­mon mis­un­der­stand­ing about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in China. When peo­ple talk about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, they en­vis­age a man beat­ing up his wife. That to a large ex­tent is true, espe­cially be­cause men in gen­eral are of bet­ter phys­i­cal build than women. But that does not nec­es­sar­ily mean only men can be bul­lies.

Last May, in a pri­mary school in Huaiyuan county, East China’s An­hui prov­ince, a 13-yearold boy uniden­ti­fied by the me­dia bul­lied his en­tire class of seven. He is shorter than the rest of his class­mates and does not have any phys­i­cal ad­van­tage, yet he suc­ceeded in bul­ly­ing his class­mates be­cause of ag­gres­sive char­ac­ter. That hap­pens in many fam­i­lies, too.

Another com­mon mis­un­der­stand­ing about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is that it is a fam­ily af­fair in which the ju­di­ciary should not in­ter­vene. This idea runs so deep in some peo­ple’s minds that they have even in­vented pre­cepts to sup­port their view: A good judge does not pass rul­ings in cases re­lated fam­ily af­fairs; No one can be in­no­cent in a fight; The vic­tim must also have faults.

When in­ci­dents of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence hap­pen in some ru­ral ar­eas, rel­a­tives and friends of the fam­ily of­ten in­ter­vene only to per­suade the vic­tim to for­get the phys­i­cal pain and hu­mil­i­a­tion for the sake of “main­tain­ing peace in the fam­ily” and some vic­tims even agree to it, which of­ten leads to more se­vere do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. An Al­lChina Women’s Fed­er­a­tion sur­vey shows that vic­tims call the po­lice after suf­fer­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence 35 times on av­er­age. Worse, some ju­di­ciary of­fi­cials seem to share that view, too, and thus adopt a lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude to­ward do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. There have been too many cases in which po­lice have re­fused to de­tain the per­pe­tra­tors of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, claim­ing that it is a “fam­ily mat­ter”. This be­lief is so wide­spread that last July re­searchers at Hu­nan po­lice acad­emy held the first train­ing course for po­lice of­fi­cers to teach them how they can help do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims. And sur­pris­ingly, even dur­ing the train­ing course, some of­fi­cers in­sisted on not in­ter­ven­ing in fam­ily mat­ters, be­cause they could not dis­tin­guish be­tween nor­mal fam­ily mat­ters and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. That’s why the Men­tougou court’s re­strain­ing or­der is im­por­tant. It not only breaks the com­mon im­pres­sion that only women suf­fer do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, but also shows the ju­di­ciar y ’s firm de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect all do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims. This, in the long run, will help im­prove the rule of law in China. It may be not pos­si­ble to root out do­mes­tic vi­o­lence from Chi­nese so­ci­ety within a short pe­riod, but we hope at least the com­mon mis­un­der­stand­ing about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence can be re­moved from peo­ple’s minds.

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@ chi­nadaily. com.cn

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