Nov 20, 2017 By Morris & Riley

"I used to think that man was the one I loved the most in the world. However, he repeatedly raised his gun against my head and threatened to kill me." In her TED speech, Leslie Morgan Steiner shared her experience as a victim of domestic violence. "People keep asking me, why don’t you leave ? "

Whether in the United States or China, Steiner’s experience is not an isolated case. Domestic violence has become a serious social problem. In the United States, 500 women die from domestic violence each year. In China, in the year of 2012 alone, the Women’s Federation received more than 36,000 letters, group vists and phone calls nationwide regarding domestic violence, about which more than 30,000 women seek help. Apart from the 36,000 calls for help, many more victims choose to silently suffer the ravages of the violence.

The inability to escape from domestic violence often leads to bigger social problems. Without restraint, a violent husband may develop a more serious problem of violence under unfettered conditions, while the wife may eventually decide to pull the knife towards the abuser after decades of silence.

I. An Overview Of Criminal Cases Of Domestic Violence In 2016-2017

According to the current public data on the China Judgments Online, in the priod from 2016 to 2017, the number of protection orders issued by courts at all levels reached 671. In the same time period, there were 192 cases relating to domestic violence, including 107 criminal cases, and 85 cases where victims committed crimes to fight against the violence.

Among criminal cases of domestic violence committed by the abusers, intentitional injury charge was the one mosted cited by the procecutors, accounting for 54.5% of the total cases. Intentional homicide accounted for 26.2% as the seond most cited charge. The third common crime was disruption of public order where the abusers fight against the police during mediation or police intervention in domestic violence cases.

The crime of intentional homicide and intentional injury accounted for 99% of all the criminal cases in which the victims of the violence were unable to tolerate violent acts and commited crime. This suggests that the victims of domestic violence tended to take a more radical and drastic approach when they finally decided to resist such violence, in the hope of freeing themselves by killing the abusers.

It is indicated from past cases that in general, if the abuser did not cause harm to victim’s vital body parts or the degree of harm determined by medical diagnosis was not high, the proportion of cases in which the abuser was prosecuted and sentenced was not high among total cases. In other words, although many partners have been subject to mental and physical abuse in family life, ordinary skin injuries were not sufficient to justify sending the abuser to jail.

II. What Is The Cause Of Domestic Violence?

In all published cases of domestic violence, family trifles, post-alcohol violence, suspicion of affairs and divorce are the most common factors leading to domestic violence.

Family trifle is the most common reason in criminal cases of domestic violence. Cases indicate that tiny quarrels of daily household life can lead to serious violence. In a criminal case that occurred in Ningxia in 2017, arguing over the issue of eating, Tang, the husband, beat his wife badly that caused her a Grade 2 minor injury, and was sentenced to a nine months imprisonment by the judge.

Alcholism is another common cause of domestic violence. In judicial verdicts with detailed case histories, 20.1% of all cases were committed by abusers of heavy drinking prior to domestic violence. A drunken husband even said in a statement that, after waking up, he found himself in the police station with no memory of what had happened.

III. What Are The Characteristics Of Defendants In Criminal Cases Of Domestic Violence?

According to available written judgements, abusers who were unemployed or farmers accounted for most criminal cases of domestic violence, about 80.4% of total cases. Abusers with middle school education or under accounted for 88.9% of all cases. As a matter of fact, althogh people with higher education background and stable jobs also committed domestic violence, they were not prosecuted because their conduct probably did not consitute crimnal offence.

In terms of crimes committed by victims of domestic violence, farmers or people without employment accounted for 83.6% of total cases, with 81.3% of the defendants holding a middle school dgree or under. This shows that cases of such nature are linked to the defendants’ knowledge level and working ability, lack of which often lead to them resorting to violence instead of defending themselves through the law.

The average age of defendants who were domestic violence victims was relatively high, with a larger proportion of middle-age and elder defendants than that of general crimes. In the period between 2016 and 2017, written judgments with defendant age on record show that younger defendants at or below the age of 35 represented only 19.4% of all defendants, while defendants at or above the age of 55 (the general female retirement age in China) accounted for 23.9%, one of whom was actually 76 years old when committing the crime. Some have endured violence and humiliation for over 40 years, and after another round of abuse, got so angry that they decided to die with the abusive husbands who tortured them for life.

IV. Why The Victims Of Extreme Domestic Violence Choose To Kill?

In criminal cases of domestic violence, it is not uncommon for the abusers to insult, beat and abuse the victims. However, why the victims of domestic violence chose to kill their partners?

First, they cannot leave. Divorce is not a relief for many victims of domestic violence. Due to their knowledge level and lack of legal common sense, some victims believe that divorce is a costly and difficult choice. In a criminal case from the past two years, the defendant finally gave up divorce after being told in bits and pieces that a divorce is very expensive when consulting the relvative process for divorce. In some places where the culture is relatively conservative, people’s thoughts are still largely influenced by the traditional patriarchal society, making divorce or separation impossible. For example, after strangling her husband in negligence, the wife’s first reaction was not to call for the police or escape, but to go to the husband's family, kneelling down and pleading for mercy. Children are another reason making it hard to leave for victims of domestic violence. In many cases, with more than one child, the long-suffering wives would prefer to endure the violence in order to take care of their children.

Secondly, it is difficult for them to fight the abuse through other ways. In the shocking case of Dong Shan-shan, Dong, the newly-married wife, had tried to hide herself at her mother’s home and even run away after being beaten by her husband, but eventually was brought back and suffered even worse abuse untill her death. The written judgements indicate that most abusers threaten victims with language, even using parents and children as leverage, making victims more humiliated and desperate.

Third, they lose hope for the future. In many cases, the defendants decided to kill the abusers with the thought that they would die together. For them, they would never be free in life as long as their partners live alongside them.

In Steiner’s TED speech, she mentioned that sex was power. Bystanders should learn to listen to and understand the victims of domestic violence rather than challenge and judge them. Only by changing the concept and enabling more victims of domestic violence to learn to seek help, can domestic violence victims have a real sense of hope.

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