Report on domestic abuse shows regional variation, less than one in ten go to cops

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/18 18:58:39

A woman in a "bloody" dress protests domestic violence outside Chaoyang District Court, Beijing, on February 3, 2013, when the court granted a divorce to US citizen Kim Lee and her husband Li Yang, the Chinese national famous for his "Crazy English" language-learning method, on the grounds of domestic abuse. Photo: CFP

Data on each provincial-level region's number of domestic violence cases has brought the topic back in the spotlight, but much of the discussion has focused on "regional discrimination."

Guangqiang, a Guangzhou-based law firm, collected and analyzed 94,571 divorce court verdicts nationwide from 2014 to 2016, the Guangdong Daily reported.

East China's Shandong Province had the most cases, with 8,205, while Central China's Henan Province came in second with 6,986 cases over the two years and Central China's Hunan Province was in third with 6,930 cases, according to the Guangqiang report.

The ranking caused an online sensation, with the hashtag "Shandong men are most likely to beat their wives" receiving over 3 million clicks on Sina Weibo. Many complained about the report and said it "intentionally blackens Shandong's reputation."

Understanding data

However a closer reading of the data actually shows that Shandong and Henan do not have particularly large numbers of domestic violence cases per capita, relative to other regions. A comparison of 2015 census data and the Guangqiang report shows that Shandong has one case per 12,005 residents, while Henan has one case for every 13,570.

The notable distinction of having the highest rate of any provincial-level region goes to Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where there was one domestic violence case for every 4,153 people over the period, followed by Northwest China's Gansu (1 for every 7,277 people) and Qinghai (1 case for every 7,887 people) and provinces.

While the provinces in which the fewest domestic violence cases were reported are Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region (1 for every 68,930 people), Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (1 in every 60,818 people) and Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province (1 in every 37,627 people).

There are many reasons Shandong tops the list, Zhang Yanwei, law professor at Shandong Women's University told the Global Times, noting that Shandong and Henan have so many domestic violence cases mainly because they are two of the most populous provinces in China.

According to a 2015 population census, Shandong has a population of 98.5 million, ranked second nationwide, and Henan has a population of 94.8 million, making it the third most populous province in China.

Persistent problem

Besides regional variation, the survey revealed that few domestic violence victims are willing to report their suffering to the police.

In the cases surveyed, only 9.5 percent of the victims made police reports after being abused and very few victims sought help from official bodies such as women's federations or their neighborhood committees.

Also, the report found that even though some abusers openly admitted their misdeeds, some courts fail to punish them as their victims failed to provide "sufficient" evidence of their injuries. "Sufficient" evidence was only provided in 17.59 percent of cases, said the survey.

"Domestic violence usually happens in private, so it's difficult for the victims to provide proof," said Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

According to Guangqiang, in the over 94,000 cases they looked at, in just 8,989 cases victims reported their abuse to police, while the police made official records in only 2,290 cases. In a total of 77 cases the police gave abusers a warning letter.

Police are often reluctant to get involved into family-related abuses, said Chen Yang, a Beijing-based divorce lawyer, noting that many officers believe dealing with family affairs is a waste of time as they think families should settle quarrels themselves.

Moreover, many victims fear their abusers will retaliate if they report abuse to the authorities.

Xiao Hu, a survivor of domestic violence, told the Global Times that her husband almost blinded her after he found out she reported his violence to police, and she found it hard to get divorced from him as he did not show up to court.

"Every time he failed to show up, I had to wait for another half a year to divorce him. During this time, I was worrying every minute fearing he will assault me again," she said.

In order to protect spouses from domestic violence, China's first ever Anti-domestic Violence Law was adopted in March 2016.

The law rules victims can appeal to courts for personal protection orders in the face of physical and psychological harm from family members.

Personal protection orders outlaw abusers from continuing domestic violence, in addition to harassing or contacting victims and their family members.

If needed, those found to be abusive could be ordered to move out of any shared residence.

But the provisions of the groundbreaking law still fall short of what is needed, and its implementation has been patchy, Lü Xiaoquan, a lawyer with the Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center, a Beijing-based NGO, told the Global Times.

Newspaper headline: The violent truth

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