Listen To The Voices of Domestic Violence
- Movie Review <Private
popular Korean drama series, Its Okay, Thats Love, which ended
recently, is about the process of reconciliation and healing in a family
traumatized by the murder of the stepfather, who used to beat his wife and
children, and the incarceration of one of the children wrongly accused of the
murder. The show interested me because it is probably the first Korean drama
series to focus on the effect of domestic violence on an individual’s life and the way victims overcome their struggle. This approach set it
apart from other soap operas which use domestic violence as a mere tool to
highlight familial conflict. Though I hoped that the popularity of the show
would lead to an increase in social awareness, unfortunately I see little
true that the South Korean government is showing unprecedented concern over
domestic violence. The current administration defined it as one of the Four
Social Evils, along with sexual violence, bullying in school and adulterated food,
making its eradication a top priority. In order to achieve this goal, the
police have established various measures and policies. Special Officers on
Domestic Violence have been placed in all police stations to handle victim
protection, case monitoring and prevention of recurring offenses. Victim
Protection Teams have been set up to deal exclusively on the victim protection
work, such as explaining the rights of the victims to them at the scene of the
crime. A new escort service takes women in need of temporary protection to an
emergency shelter where female police officers are stationed 24 hours. The
proactive attitude of the law enforcement clearly contributed to the boost of
arrests of domestic violence perpetrators, which increased by 91.6% over the
should be considered primarily when approaching the domestic violence issue?
police officer and feminist, I welcome the efforts the law enforcement is
making to approach the domestic violence issue more sensitively and thoroughly.
However, it seems that the improved institutions have yet to have a substantial
effect on victims. I wondered what more could be done for them.
came across Private Violence. The 81-minute documentary film
features Deanna, who was kidnapped with her daughter and abused for three days
by her ex-husband, and Kit, an activist. With Kits legal and emotional
support, Deanna has the perpetrator prosecuted, wins custody of her daughter,
and become independent from her parents, moving from victim to survivor. Woven
into Deannas story is the story of Kit, also a survivor, and the stories of
other women, prompting us to think about what should be the priority when we
approach the domestic violence issue.
from Private Violence, screened at the 8th Film Festival
for Womens Rights
days, most people understand that domestic violence is criminal and immoral.
However, the perpetrator is usually portrayed as a wife-beating loser or a
psychopath, and the victim a wretched woman with heavily bruised bodies and
disheveled hair. Spousal abuse is actually a common crime in South Korea:
according to the 2013 Survey of Domestic Violence by the Ministry of Gender
Equality and Family, 45% of all couples have experienced it. But to many
people, domestic violence is an uncomfortable subject, something that happens
to other people. Therefore, they do not know and do not care to know about
how, in what ways, and in what context domestic violence occurs. We see this
attitude in the doctor who turns his face the other way as soon as he sees
Kits badly battered face, and in the policeman responding to the report made
by Deannas parents, saying that the abuser is “he was a
violent person but he wasnt violent enough to kill someone. “ This kind of thinking,
prevalent in the justice system and the general public, isolates the victims
and robs them of the opportunity to be understood and protected.
did you let yourself be abused? You could have gotten a divorce!"
are often asked why they stayed in abusive relationships when they could have
left and gotten a divorce. The seemingly rational question is in fact another
reflection of the lack of awareness. It implies that the victim tolerated, if
not consented to, the violence, and leaves room for empathy for the
perpetrator. It allows perpetrators like Deannas husband to claim that she
could have run away any time she wanted. On the other hand, the women are
blamed for not risking their lives to escape, or conditioned to blame
themselves even after the aggressor is condignly punished.
from Private Violence, screened at the 8th Film Festival
for Womens Rights
are many reasons why women are abused by husbands, boyfriends and other men
with whom they have intimate relationships. There are also various and complex
reasons, including love, money, children, social isolation, and the desire to
"give him another chance," as to why they are stuck in such
relationships. It is almost impossible to understand each case of domestic
violence without understanding its history and context. Private Violenceshows us that domestic violence can never be eradicated as long as it remains
something that "everybody knows but no one knows about (note: this is a
literal translation of the Korean title of the film, <누구나 알지만 누구도 모르는>)."
on the earth can we find the solution? We cannot just wait for a superhero like
Kit to show up and save us. The director Cynthia Hill gives us a clue through
Kits words: "battered
women are the experts in whats happening in their relationship and we need
society to treat them like the experts that they are.”.
admit that every case of domestic violence is unique and special. This
understanding must be shared not only within the criminal justice system but
among all of us. We need to respect the experiences of each victim and listen
to their voices. Discard the stereotypes we have for domestic violence, and pay
attention to the victims description of their struggles. Only then will we be
a Kit to somebody else.
the law enforcement, civil society and the government should join forces to
construct a social safety net to prevent recurring violence in so-called
private spaces like the family and to facilitate the recovery of both victims
and perpetrators. "Leaving an
abuser is not an event, its a process." says the movie. A family needs continuous
support, in addition to the punishment of the perpetrator, to rise above the
painful experience. The safety net should provide comprehensive service,
including counseling for the victim, the perpetrator and their family members
in the throes of complex emotions like love and hate, guilt and fear, and anger
and despair, through medical care, and legal support. Last year, the Korean
police organized the Domestic Violence Solution Team with counseling centers,
hospitals, gu offices, etc. Although it is still in an infant stage, it has made some notable progress. When many people join this
effort, we will change public attitude towards domestic violence, getting one
step closer to its elimination.
As the film drew to a close, the poem "The
remains" by Jong-hwan Do came to mind.
There are grass in the desert that do not abandon each
In a forest where everything has burned down
there are trees that do not believe it is all over
Unless I give up on myself
There are some things that are always with me wherever I
The law and the justice system should be the
last bastion and a reliable shelter for victims of domestic violence. It is
essential for the police and the criminal justice system, civil society and the
community to be staunchly committed to addressing it. In the process, I hope to
hear the voices of more survivors like Kit and Deanna.
* Saet-byul KIM is a law enforcement officer at
the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA).