May 1, 2011

Domestic Violence is Not a Private Matter

By Chosun Ilbo columnist Oh Tae-jin

Apr. 21, 2011 13:02 KST

A team of doctors in Japan's Ehime Prefecture investigated the lives and deaths of 3,000 elderly people there over a seven-year period and found that the death rate among women living with their husbands was twice as high as among those who lived alone. In contrast, the death rate among men who lived alone was 50 percent higher than the rate for men who lived with their wives.

The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "When a wife has a good husband it is easily seen in her face." A U.S. study shows that emotionally abusive words spoken by a husband have a harmful effect on the health of the wife. The way husband and wife talk can cause heart ailments, just like smoking or cholesterol, and warm words spoken by a husband lower the risk of his wife getting heart disease, the study said.

In "The Canterbury Tales," Geoffrey Chaucer describes a man's position as a "serf" during courtship and a "lord" after marriage. It seems that men are the same regardless of nationality when it comes to how they treat their wives.

There is an old Korean saying that even the best son cannot replace a bad husband. There are limits to a woman's patience. Women secrete lower amounts of the female hormone estrogen as they grow older. Their patience and femininity decrease along with the estrogen levels, making them more aggressive. They become less able to accept and understand domineering husbands.

The U.S. Justice Department studied 330 cases of murder involving married couples and found that in 44 percent of them the court ruled that the killing was instigated by the actions of the men. In other words, the courts found that the women killed their husbands in an attempt to defend themselves against domestic violence. Only 10 percent of the cases involved husbands murdering their wives. The average sentences were 16 years for men and six years for women. In the U.S., one woman falls victim to domestic violence every six hours.

In Korea too there are tragedies where women murder their husbands because they are unable to endure beatings any longer. Earlier this week, an 78-year-old woman committed suicide after killing her husband. She wrote a note to her son saying, "I'm sorry. I did not want things to turn out this way." Although the exact circumstances surrounding the murder have yet to be verified, she appears to have suffered years of abuse. Perhaps our society has treated this problem as a private matter for too long.

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