In her popular online videos make-up artist Yuyamika is bubbly, funny and talented. She transforms herself into John Lennon, the Mona Lisa or Albert Einstein simply by redrawing the contours of her face and applying a little colour. But on November 25 she posted a very different kind of video, chronicling the physical and mental abuse she had received at the hands of her boyfriend.
“After the beatings I would have to take a week off work for my face to recover. I couldn’t apply make-up or post tutorials,” she revealed through tears.
One particularly shocking part of the testimonial shows security footage of Yuyamika – whose real name is He Yuhong – lying on the floor of an elevator. Her partner, Chen Hong, is trying to drag her out by her ankles.
She says she lay on the floor to protect herself from his blows.
“He kept kicking my body and insulting me, but I was too scared to say anything or resist. I could only lie down on the ground and wait until he finished blowing off steam,” she said.
The 12-minute video also includes interviews with Chen’s two ex-wives who also say he abused them.
Chen has since been sentenced to 20 days in detention and has had a restraining order issued against him. Meanwhile Yuyamika’s video has sparked a wider debate about domestic violence in China.
What is heartening is that many – including state media – now seem to recognise it as a serious social issue, warranting police and court involvement.
That is a huge shift from a decade ago when awareness of domestic violence was low and many people – including legislators – saw cases of it as a private matter to be dealt with inside a family.
“We look forward to a proper and rigorous disposal of this case, and we also hope that society can condense into an atmosphere of zero tolerance for domestic violence,” wrote the Beijing News.
The People’s Daily also encouraged victims and witnesses of domestic abuse to report it, while Xinhua reminded people that violence like this cannot simply be regarded as a private matter. In fact “it is an illegal or even criminal act”, it said.
China passed a law criminalising domestic abuse in 2016 and since then the courts have issued 3,718 restraining orders against partners.
Yet experts say levels of abuse are stubbornly high, with some estimates that as many as one in four women have suffered at the hands of their partners.
Equality, a Beijing-based women’s rights organisation reported that even in the year-and-half after the anti-domestic violence law was passed, cases of abuse were frequent, with 635 adults and children even dying as a result of domestic violence.
To get those numbers down experts say that the government should be running more public awareness campaigns so that victims know their rights and that police and judges take allegations seriously.
Furthermore the law could be strengthened. At the moment domestic abuse is still classified primarily as a civil infraction. It only becomes a crime if a fuller charge such as battery or assault can be proved.
Campaigners are also calling for marital rape to be made a crime in China, which is still one of only a handful of countries without specific legislation against it.
Since Yuyamika’s video was released another woman has come forward to accuse an actor, Jiang Jinfu, of abuse as well. Jiang has a record of violence towards women. In 2018 he spent a month in police detention in Japan after beating his then girlfriend and causing her to miscarry.
The new accusations come from a woman known as Julieta, from Uruguay, who claims he controlled her every move, and cut her off from friends and family during their three-month relationship.
These stories have led other women to share their experiences on social media.
“I grew up in family marred by domestic violence… if it happens just once, leave,” wrote one.
“There are only two kinds of men. Ones that never beat their wives and ones that always beat their wives. He won’t change. He will do it again,” advised another.
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