Podcast: Story in the Story (3/5/2019 Tue.)
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From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story.

Around 30 percent of married women in 270 million households have suffered from domestic violence, according to figures from the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) in 2015. Every 7.4 seconds, a Chinese woman suffers a serious domestic violence attack, the ACWF added in 2016.

A well-known sexologist and professor at the Beijing Forestry University, Fang Gang is one of the most active advocates for breaking traditional Chinese stereotypical views of masculinity.

But bringing about change may seem like an insurmountable task when faced with the pile of appalling domestic violence statistics in China.

Today's Story in the Story looks at how Chinese husbands tackle domestic violence by rethinking masculinity.

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(Photo: VCG)

The Penis Monologues was part of the 2018 annual summing up conference of the China White Ribbon Volunteers Network (CWRVN), an organization founded in 2013 that seeks to engage men in the fight to stop domestic violence.

All nine male actors are volunteers at the CWRVN, and were personally invited by Fang, but this number was far smaller than those who turned down his offer.

"What concerned me the most is not men's rejection, but their indifference. They rebuffed us because they do not believe it is their business. That is disappointing, but more common," said Fang.

Gao Rui (pseudonym), an actor in the play, said he cried when he read the script for the first time. "It was as if I was playing my own story. I was trapped by the distorted culture of masculinity, and tried to escape by attacking and being attacked. The play is redemption of self," he told the audience at last December's premiere.

Another actor, Gu Wei, portrayed his own story in the play. He used to abuse his ex-wife a lot, but changed his role from abuser to counselor with the help of the CWRVN.

One of the biggest steps Gu took was to call the White Ribbon hotline. During the counselling, he learned about the influence his family had on him and decided to take measures to try to control his anger. 

Asked whether he felt ashamed about telling his story to the public, Gu said he was unwilling to do so at first, as he saw it as a humiliating experience. However, an inquiry from a QQ user changed his mind, and he decided to push forward in his effort to get more Chinese men to participate in anti-domestic abuse work.

"A man who had a similar experience as me asked for help on QQ after he saw my story in the media. From that time, I realized I could make more abusers aware that their violent mentality could be changed," Gu said.

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Actors from The Penis Monologues stand on stage at Beijing's Institute France of China on December 16, 2018. (Photo: GT)

On his relationship with the CWRVN, he describes Fang as the driver of the White Ribbon bus and the volunteers, including him, as the passengers. "We are heading in the right direction," Gu added. 

As of the end of 2018, 3,066 volunteers had joined CWRVN and established local service stations in over 40 cities across the country. Every volunteer received on average over 300 calls through the counseling hotline last year. 

China's first anti-domestic violence law took effect on March 1, 2016. Though the law includes mental violence, it is still far short of international practices, which also cover sexual assault and financial control.

Local ACWF departments are obliged to offer immediate legal and psychological consultation for victims and families, especially those who may have suffered sexual abuse. But in the absence of a clear legal framework to punish abusers, many cases end up going nowhere.

Li Hongtao, a former professor at China Women's University, has been a long-time advocate of implementing enforced psychological intervention and correction to violators on a legislative level. 

Li believes that legislative protection and psychological counseling are the two most important protective tools for victims. But counselors' immature and inappropriate understanding of sexual relationships could make victims' situations worse.

"We urgently call for special training for psychological counselors who are involved in domestic violence cases, both for victims and perpetrators." 

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Elaine Yue Lin, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe, Da Hang, and Chelle Wenqian Zeng. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times.)