60% of Shenzhen Adults Say They are Victims of Domestic Violence

And that doesn't even include the elderly and children

A deeply unsettling number of respondents to a Shenzhen University poll commissioned by the Shenzhen Women’s Federation reported experiencing domestic violence in the city, with 60 percent saying they had been the victim of violence and 20 percent of parents admitting to abusing their children.

Only in late November of last year did the national government introduce legislation that defines domestic violence and gives unambiguous information on how restraining orders work. The law was hailed as a major step forward by officials and some advocates of domestic violence legislation, but some saw the flaws, such as the Wall Street Journal, which reported that the law does not apply to unmarried couples.

That same month state media reported that 40 percent of Chinese women who were married or in a relationship had experienced domestic violence, and that’s just those who reported it. Several studies have indicated that domestic violence is widely underreported around the world (for instance, this one published in the Oxford University Press says that among women, a worldwide average of only 7 percent report their cases to authorities).

Shenzhen Economic Daily quoted a local lawyer, Guo Xuan Ling, as saying that domestic violence is very common and that there are lots of gaps in the legislative process and a lack of legal remedies for these situations, which causes a gap in timely assistance and protection to victims. The same report says that in 2009 in Shenzhen, more than 7,200 families split up. Twenty percent were because of violence in the family and 50 percent due to extramarital affairs.

The pollsters interviewed men and women above the age of 18 living in Shenzhen with and without permanent residency in May 2014. The university estimates that because the elderly and children were not included in the study, the rates could be as high as 80 percent – not even accounting for endemic underreporting.

The study found that 40 to 50 percent of couples verbally abuse their partners, while 4 to 10 percent reported experiencing forced sexual behavior, such as a man refusing to wear a condom, and 4 to 5 percent reported being forced into sex altogether through threats and violence.

China’s Supreme People’s Court is expected to introduce legislation that more clearly defines procedures for dealing with domestic violence cases in the first half of this year. Until then, violence is likely being carried out far more than reports indicate; more than half of Shenzhen’s children are learning how to behave from parents who are abusing each other, and the city that trumpets its rating as the least polluted among major Chinese cities has above average rates of a crime that causes more psychological damage than can ever be measured.