A former Chinese journalist’s article detailing abuse at the hands of her partner has once again got people talking about domestic violence, a criminal offense in China, with many seeming surprised that such incidents are prevalent even in cities and among the educated.
In an article published Saturday, Ma Jinyu shared that her husband, a former interviewee of hers from the northwestern Qinghai province, physically abused her and their three children for years during their seven-year marriage.
The journalist with over a decade of experience said he once tried to choke her.
“I quickly lost sight of anything; it was all dark in front of me. Maybe I passed out,” Ma wrote in the article published in Truman Story, a WeMedia outlet, with the title “Another Lhamo,” referring to the Tibetan livestreamer who was burned to death by her husband in October. “Today, I wrote all this not to win sympathy, but to uncover the mystery of (why) I left Qinghai.”
However, unlike Lhamo’s death, where many overwhelmingly criticized the abuser and showed empathy for the livestreamer, social media users were skeptical of why Ma, a well-educated journalist in her early 40s, had opted not to go to the police. Some also questioned why she had endured the abuse for years rather than leave him immediately.
“I can hardly imagine how an independent woman who graduated from a prominent university, worked for a prominent media outlet, worked for an international news agency, and won a media prize could endure such a life,” read one upvoted comment under her article. “The consequence of being love-struck is so horrible.”
Lin Shuang, a Shanghai-based volunteer at an anti-domestic violence organization, told Sixth Tone that a majority of the women she has helped are educated professionals. There’s a common misconception, she said, that violence and harassment don’t exist in cities and urban households.
“Domestic violence is systemic gender-based violence that won’t automatically disappear because of education or economic improvement,” said Lin, who has helped some 30 domestic violence survivors in Shanghai.
Blaming survivors for not going to the police or not leaving their abuser isn’t helpful, she said. Instead, the focus should be on the effectiveness of protection mechanisms and punishments for the perpetrators after such cases are reported to authorities.
“Jinyu has successfully run away now, but did her husband receive any punishment for beating her and her children?” said Lin. “When all the consequences of domestic violence fall on the victims, of course domestic violence won’t be eliminated.”
Ma said she fled from her husband and move to another city with their three children because of the abuse, though it’s unclear from the article when she left. She also said she has not yet filed for divorce.
Responding to the article, Ma’s husband, Xie Decheng, told domestic media on Sunday that he has never beaten Ma apart from “slapping her” once.
The local public security bureau in Qinghai’s Guide County, where the couple lived, told The Beijing News that the case is currently under investigation. Meanwhile, China’s top law enforcement body, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, has called for zero tolerance of domestic violence, stressing that it is not merely a “domestic issue.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Ma Jinyu and her husband in Qinghai province. From Weibo)