The other day I read the amazing story of badass Kim Lee on NPR. Lee recently took on the Chinese legal system, not to mention the Chinese patriarchy, by going public with the domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of her Chinese husband, famous English teacher Li Yang. The couple have three children.
According to NPR, Lee, who is American, posted photos on Twitter of her face with a giant knot on her forehead as well as photos of her bloody ear and raw knees, injuries she received when her husband brutally beat her. She says she posted the photos out of desperation:
“That day the violence was so horrific. I went to the police station, and I went to the hospital, and my husband went on TV and did a TV show. I thought maybe he just didn’t even realize how seriously he hurt me, even though he was sitting on my back, slamming my head in the floor,” Lee recalls. “I thought, that will really get his attention. Maybe then he’ll come to the realization, ‘Oh, I’ve really seriously injured my wife. I better go home, I better deal with this.’ But he didn’t.”
Ok, beating anyone is fucked up. Beating your partner is super fucked up. But brutally beating your wife and then going to do a TV show like it ain’t no thang? Incredibly fucked up.
Along with the photos, Lee wrote “Domestic violence is a serious problem” and “Li Yang, you need help.” Posting the photos on Twitter was a huge deal. It marked the first time in China that a high-profile woman (Lee is also a teacher and is known in China for her work with Li) went public about domestic violence. It was incredibly brave for Lee to call her husband out so publicly, especially in a country where she is considered an outsider.
Lee’s douchebag husband actually gave blow-by-blow accounts of beating her in interviews after Lee publicly shamed him. He has said he never thought Lee would go public with his shitty treatment because “ it’s not Chinese tradition to expose family conflicts to outsiders.” Considering the number of messages Lee has received from Chinese women sharing similarly horrific experiences, the Chinese tradition of silence surrounding domestic abuse is a problem that needs lots of work. Hopefully Lee’s courage in the face of a foreign culture and legal system will inspire other women around the world to fight back.
I am seriously so inspired by Kim Lee’s bravery. Her American friends urged her to go to the American Embassy but Lee wanted to use a Chinese lawyer and go through the Chinese legal system. She says, “I did not want to teach my daughters, ‘No one can beat you because you’re American.’ I wanted to teach them, ‘No one can beat you because you’re a person, you’re a woman.’ ” So amazing!
Fighting her husband in court wasn’t easy. China does not have a specific law against domestic abuse and Lee had to work with a apathetic police system that is basically designed to make women give up (sounds a bit like the US ). Yet Lee, buoyed by the more than 1,000 woman that sent her messages and support, would not quit.
On February 3rd, after an 18 month long trial that kept the country on edge, a Chinese court ruled in favor of Lee, granting her a divorce, custody of her three children, $8,000 compensation for abuse (how do they quantify this?!) and around $2 million in assets. She was also granted a restraining order against her ex-husband, the first time ever in Beijing. Fuck that dude, srsly.
As for shitbag Li, who “even told one journalist he’d only married Lee as a cultural experiment, for research in American child-rearing techniques,” let’s hope this loss of face taught him that violence against women is not acceptable in any culture.