&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Standing up to intimate enemy

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&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Standing up to intimate enemy

At a glance, Doha appears to be a sunny elementary school boy. But he lives in constant anxiety, having to see his father beat his mother every day. The mother, intimidated, does not report the beatings to the police. One day, Doha finds himself abusing his younger sister just as his father does his mother.

The story is from an animated movie, "Doha's Dream," from the Seoul Women's Hotline, based on a caller's true story. Violence in the home, rarely noticeable to outsiders, is referred to as "invisible violence."

According to available statistics, only 1 percent of victims of home violence report it to the police. Most are victims of husbands and fathers. The recent publicized beating of a comedienne came to light only after she suffered years of beatings by her husband. There is a joke that when French women are beaten, they run to their lovers, while American women run to lawyers. It seems, however, that domestic violence is not aired publicly in Western societies. Police in the United States estimate that only 3 percent of battered women report the abuse.

There are several theories about this hesitancy by the victims. Psychologists speak of "learned lethargy." A caged dog experimentally subjected to electric shocks desperately attempts at first to escape, but finds no way out. As the shocks continue, the dog accepts its fate. Even when the cage doors are opened, it makes no attempt to escape.

Another approach is explained by several sociologists as "learned hope." Victims believe that if they suffer the beating, someday their husbands will change. This belief firms as they mature from girls to women.

Abusers may find that their spouses or family members will no longer accept victimhood. In societies around the world, there is a strong current to make domestic violence a criminal offense. The Act on the Preven-tion of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims in 1998 has changed the behavior of Korean victims. In 1999, about 12,000 men were booked for domestic violence; in 2002, the number grew to 16,000. The increase is less a jump in domestic violence than the proactive responses of victims and police.

There is a saying that fighting between spouses is like cutting water with a sword. But that may be about to change. If frozen, water can break things, and water flowing constantly can melt a sword down.

by Lee Kyu-yeon

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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