Should social networking sites be used to highlight domestic abuse?


By Mariam Mokhtar

It is not something many people would be prepared to do but Amanda Fong Kim Yen, who is 19-years old and two months pregnant posted three CCTV videos on social website Facebook to highlight the alleged assault by her husband.

People may wonder why she resorted to such drastic action – telling the whole world that she is a victim of domestic abuse. There are possibly many reasons for this.

Older women when contacted said that they would avoid bringing further shame onto themselves and their family, by using Facebook. Some compared it to bringing the whole world into the bedroom.

Most young people disagree. They believe in the power of the social media, to get the message across. Fong, unlike the older generation, knows how social networking sites work and how to use them to her advantage. Her mother’s and grandmother’s generations would not have been exposed to such sites and a resolution to such problems would have been sought differently.

Whilst many wives (and husbands) do not experience domestic abuse, a good number suffer in silence, at the hands of their spouse. A few have died from the abusive treatment.

There are occasions when the perpetrators of abuse have prevented victims from contacting outsiders. They have threatened more violence, reprisals, issued death threats or told victims that their children will be harmed or taken away from them.

Britain’s Princess Diana was interviewed by the BBC’s Martin Bashir for Panorama. She claimed to have been subjected to mental torment and was ignored by the royal family. She would have had the best experts at her disposal but they probably politely declined to highlight her suffering, so as not to upset the royal family. In the end, she was forced to breach the royal family’s strict code of conduct, “Never complain. Never explain”.

It is well known that the police are reluctant to help, neighbours are reluctant to get involved and family members are reluctant to tarnish the family name. Perhaps, social media sites remain one of the last avenues of help.

In the video clips, which Fong posted on August 30 and 31, on her Facebook page, she is seen being shoved around, being hit and making unsuccessful attempts to resist her husband’s blows.

An online newspaper reported that she had said on her post: “As you can see in this video he wouldn’t let me out from the shop even when I went to press the door access….. He has put me under tremendous pressure, hurt, pain and & suffering. I cannot endure it anymore longer. I’m very tired of living this miserable life.”

“I have been accused, suffered from humiliation, physically & mentally anguished.”

Members of the public have expressed outrage. Both Fong and her husband, Calvin Chik Foo Keong, have since lodged police reports. Chik denies abusing Fong but alleged that it was she, who was the abuser, adding that he had been badly wounded.

Fong’s father had apparently also lodged a police report on August 23, so that Chik would be issued with a police warning.

This incident has again brought the issue of domestic abuse into the public domain. In a newspaper report, Perak CID chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Mohd Dzuraidi Ibrahim confirmed that the incident was a family dispute which was being investigated under Section 323 of the Penal Code.

At a press conference, Fong said she disagreed with her husband over a decision to sell branded perfume in their shop. The argument quickly escalated into violence.

She also said: “I gave the CCTV footage to the police on August 29 at 7.40pm. I want the police to investigate as soon as possible and take action against him, because no woman should be treated like this.”

Chik has related his version of events to Malaysian He alleges that his wife has had an affair with a married datuk who gave her a substantial allowance and that she suffers from bouts of depression, had suicidal tendencies, and has attacked him with a knife in the past. He also says that his mother-in-law interferes in the marriage.

Contrary to claims that he was trying to harm the unborn baby, Chik claimed that he was only trying to calm Fong down, in order to protect both baby and mother. Chik has apologised for the alleged assault on his wife, which he agreed was inexcusable but that “things got out of control”. He said he was prepared to face the consequences of his actions.

Some people claim that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook may fuel further domestic violence. In Taiwan, a husband beat his wife up when a love rival posted flirty messages on his wife’s Facebook page.

When Fong posted the video of her alleged assault on Facebook, was it a desperate cry for help or was she out for revenge, and to humiliate her husband?

Whatever the true reasons for this particular alleged assault in Ipoh, it is important to note that domestic violence can happen to both men and women. People should be educated and made to understand why it happens, what steps should be taken to stop it from happening again and that victims should be protected.

When people post their troubles on social networking sites, the normal channels of communication and resolving issues are forgotten. Do some of us treat other peoples’ violence as a source of entertainment? Or, are social media sites powerful tools for highlighting domestic abuse?

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