Addressing Domestic Abuse in China

IMAGE: ASTAGA.COM

 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” -1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

 

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most popular passages about love in the Bible. While this description of ideal godly love is beautiful, it can also be daunting.

 

Love never fails? Even the best of human love cannot compare with a love that perfect. God calls us to dwell together in perfect unity, yet everywhere we look we see broken relationships and failed attempts to love.

 

It can be tempting to despair in this, but if we shift our eyes from our own failure and fix them on God, the source of perfect love, we see His ability to restore. The following story illustrates the brokenness of human love, but more importantly, it testifies to the power of exposing darkness and courageously seeking justice--steps that take us back in the direction of God’s restoration and perfect love.

 


 

In 2011, American Kim Lee was brutally beaten at home by her Chinese husband Li Yang. Sitting on her back, Yang repeatedly slammed his wife’s head into the floor while their 3-year-old daughter looked on in horror and pleaded for her dad to stop.

 

The couple had already been experiencing tension in their relationship due to Yang's frequent business-related absences and some disputes over money. Several of these confrontations escalated into fights, resulting in Yang roughly beating his wife.

 

The worst incident of abuse came when Kim accused Yang of controlling her. Without warning, Yang jumped on his wife and began smashing her head into the floor. As Kim tried to get away, she scraped and badly bruised her knees and elbows. Yang continued to furiously beat her.

 

Although Kim kept quiet about her husband’s previous abuse, this incident was too brutal for her to ignore. While she left the house with her daughter and went to the hospital, her husband left to prepare for a TV interview he had that night, as if nothing had happened.

 

Kim claimed that her husband’s indifference to her trauma hurt her more than the actual beating. Fed up, Kim decided to go public with her case. She posted graphic pictures of her injuries on a Chinese microblog site, where thousands of users could see her post. This act brought national attention to Kim and Yang’s marriage, leaving no doubt of Yang’s abuse.

 

Yang is famous in China for his language program, Crazy English. The story of his abuse put his public reputation in danger and he was desperate to save face. Instead of owning his actions, Yang blamed his marriage problems on “character and cultural differences” and his busy schedule. Yang remained calm to the public, but that night he sent Kim a defensive text saying that he had only hit her 10 times and that she had a carpet as a cushion between her and the ground, so it was not a big deal. There was no trace of apology in his text and he acted as if Kim was exaggerating. He claimed that the beating was, “not that cruel”.

 

Kim had suffered at the hands of her husband before, but Chinese cultural norms and fear kept her from speaking up. When Kim spoke to her sister-in-law, she was encouraged to drop the matter. “It’s nothing,” her sister-in-law told her, “all men are like that.”

 

Unfortunately, this is true for many women in China. Studies suggest that 25% of Chinese married women experience domestic violence. Instead of caring for their wives, many men beat them and expect their wives to keep quiet about it.

 

Yang treated the whole affair somewhat flippantly. In one interview, he said his marriage to Kim was simply a cultural experiment to learn about American parenting styles. If Kim wanted a divorce, Yang was more than willing to accept it. Yang even told his daughters to speak up against domestic abuse if they encounter it in their future marriages.

 

To Yang, Kim’s health and wellbeing was second in importance to his own career and success. According to an article by Huffington Post, Yang told TV interviewers that he asked Kim to remove the photos from the web because he “thought [the photos] could cause huge damage to [him] and [his] career.”

 

Kim and Yang’s story gained international attention. Although domestic abuse is rampant in China, this was one of the first times a woman had spoken out about it. The fact that it was a courageous foreign woman who ultimately spoke up made the case even more unique.

 

Culturally, family tensions are not considered appropriate to share in China. Kim explained that, “The whole system [in China] is designed to pressure women to give up and just drop it.” Fear of punishment from their husbands and judgment from society keeps most women quiet about their troubles.

 

Yang himself was surprised at Kim’s audacity, telling a reporter from China Daily, “I hit her sometimes but I never thought she would make it public since it’s not Chinese tradition to expose family conflicts to outsiders.” Yang evidently assumed that his beatings were normal and that fear of public shame would keep Kim quiet.

 

After an 18-month period of court hearings and testimonies, Yang and Kim officially divorced. In order to prevent further harm, this was a necessary action.

 

A court in Beijing gave Kim custody of her three girls, substantial financial compensation, and a restraining order against Yang. Kim and Yang’s rocky relationship ended forever.

 

Kim’s bravery set a precedent for victims of domestic abuse. The case sparked a public discussion of the problem and brought to light an issue that is often kept secret.

 

Violence is not acceptable and justice must be sought against perpetrators of domestic abuse--a fact Kim well understands. Kim reported Yang’s actions because she recognized that accepting violence from a loved one is not an act of love or devotion. At the same time, she also proved that it is possible to justly deal with abusive behavior without maintaining a hatred for the abuser.

 

Kim told reporters that she hates what Yang has done to her and her family, but she acknowledged that she does not hate Yang himself. What Yang did created an irreparable break between the two of them, but Kim’s treatment of Yang is commendable.

 

Forgiveness is a key element in the process of fully healing from instances of abuse. Holding onto bitterness and fear keeps victims chained to their trauma and makes moving on difficult.

 

Forgiveness is also extremely difficult. Perhaps Kim and Yang will never fully reconcile their past, but Kim’s refusal to hate Yang may ultimately be instrumental in her and her daughters’ journey towards healing.

 

According to God’s standard, husbands should love[their] wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The world is still a long way from achieving this standard, but Kim’s bravery in exposing abuse and bringing about justice represents a small step towards God’s ultimate plan of restoration.

By Emilie, All Girls Allowed

 

All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy.  “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”

 

 

 




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