[FOUNTAIN]Time to rethink the issue of domestic abuse

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[FOUNTAIN]Time to rethink the issue of domestic abuse

Exactly 15 years ago, a reporter wrote a short article for his newspaper and had to deal with a lot of dispute and protest. His article cited an academic paper that surveyed 1,316 adult men and women and concluded that 23 percent of the husbands had been assaulted by their wives to various degrees in the previous year. At the time, the rate of domestic violence against wives was 31 percent.
Some women’s rights activists questioned how it was possible for men and women to experience similar rates of domestic violence, and called the study and the article male-oriented. In the 1980s, “battered wives” were emerging as a social issue, so the reporter deserved criticism for lacking social consciousness, but the survey apparently showed that a considerable number of husbands were also silent victims of domestic violence.
It might sound universally acceptable to say “husbands are more violent than wives.” But the common view does not hold true for the results of the National Family Violence Survey, which was taken in 1975 and 1985 in the United States. In both surveys, the rates of violence for men and women were similar, at 49 percent for men and 51 percent for women. Among them, 48 percent of the men said they had thrown objects or pushed their wives, and 52 percent of the women admitted similar minor violence. But half of both the husbands and wives also responded that they had used serious violence, such as beating with their hands or threatening with weapons.
The survey was the first full-scale effort to research the domestic violence situation, but some scholars did not want to accept the results. Additional studies in the next decade revealed the qualitative difference between the genders. The ratio of men and women using deadly violence was 7 to 3. The women’s violence tended to be defensive, while the men’s was more often offensive.
Today, many Korean husbands report or seek help after being assaulted by their wives. The conventional idea of beating husbands and beaten wives might soon disappear as the gender difference in domestic violence is fading. But there are still at least twice as many husbands using serious violence than wives. Korean husbands still have a long way to go when it comes to patience and tolerance. By the way, I was the reporter who lacked social consciousness 15 years ago.


by Lee Kyu-youn

The writer is deputy national affairs editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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