BANGKOK — Domestic violence is complex and often hidden from society.
In a case heard Saturday at a symposium to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the victim eventually came out to talk about her case, but was unwilling to name names to hold the violator accountable.
At the symposium, entitled “Being Close is No License for Violence” and held in a small room at Thammasat University, speakers recounted their own bitter experiences. The talk was organized by Women Group of Thammasat University and other partners.
An Online Columnist Coming Out
Twenty-six-year-old Chotiros Naksut, or Lookkaew, was propelled to fame after she gave an interview to an online website revealing the details of violence against her made by her boyfriend of three years. The article which came out earlier this year was widely read and led to ample discussion about her case.
Her relationship, with an educated man who is a guest lecturer at various universities, ended in May after three years. She reckoned that violence against her – which included slapping, banging of her head against the floor and strangulation – occurred every three to four months.
In one incident, Chotiros said the violence started from a minor argument on the phone, the cause of which she couldn’t even recall. Chotiros vividly remembers being strangled by her then boyfriend, however. It became tighter and tighter, she said.
“I begged, telling him I couldn’t breathe anymore and he replied ‘that’s your problem’,” Chotiros said.
After a few such episodes, Chotiros thought her ex-boyfriend abused her for speaking too much, so she became less talkative. But it didn’t help.
“The lesson was that if I am close to him [physically] I will be on the receiving end,” said Chotiros, adding that there’s no profile as to what kind of man will be violent, be it in terms of education, class or look.
On another occasion, she was slapped in a public location and then banged against a door. A person nearby had to call the police but in the end police only took the two to a police station to cool off until they let them go.
“I asked the police to have it recorded,” she said.
Chotiros said in the end, and after three years, she decided to end the relationship and go public about the experience. She has continued to refuse naming her ex, however. Asked why, she shed tears at the symposium and said she still loved him.
“I don’t want him to get into trouble or be affected negatively… But there have been rumors [as to who he was]. I am still worried about him. I am still part of that culture of violence… It hasn’t reached the point where people are prosecuted,” she said.
‘Gays Deserve to Be Raped’
Muhammadmumin Muna is gay. He was raped by a man years ago when he was a student and realized it was hard to convince others he had been raped.
“Which man will rape you?” a friend told him. Others said he deserved it because gays are sexually insatiable.
“There’s a stereotype that gays must be sexually yearning,” said Muhammadmumin, who works for Amnesty International Thailand. “Violence occurs not only against women. It can happen to anyone.”
Observation from an Activist
Manee Khunpakdee, knowledge management manager at Social Equality Promotion Foundation, stressed that sexual violence often comes from people who have close relations. This, she added, could be family members, close friends, partners or spouses.
What’s more, there exists other forms of sexual violence that are often not regarded as violence in Thai society, Manee said. This includes the repeated use of violent words and barring one’s partner or spouse from seeing their child or children.
Police and the public also tend to play down any sexual violence when a married couple has problems, he said. Manee cited the Thai saying “tongue and teeth often clash” as an example of how sexual violence between couples is often discounted in the Thai context.
Manee added that there was still a long way for Thailand before it could realized a culture free of sexual violence.
In Thailand, even community of social and political activists are susceptible to sexual violence and harassment.