Girl’s dramatic suicide shows the vile side of society

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/28 19:07:11

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For women, the world is more often a dangerous and unfair place. It is women who are at the receiving end of sexual harassment. The ugly truth was demonstrated by the unfortunate death of 26-year-old Taiwanese writer Lin Yi-han, who suffered depression for many years after being raped by her teacher. This was proved again recently when a 19-year-old girl took her life after being unable to bear the pain of sexual harassment by her teacher.

The girl surnamed Li jumped off the eighth floor of a building on June 20 in Qingyang, Northwest China's Gansu Province. She had been suffering from depression after being molested by her teacher two years ago when she was still a minor and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She had tried suicide four times.

Frankly, Li is braver than many other victims who choose to remain silent. When the pain and shame was unbearable, she turned to a psychological counselor in her middle school, told her father about the molestation and reported it to local public security authorities.

But she was failed. The counselor unprofessionally reported her revelations to a school official, who tried to persuade her not to tell her father about the incident. He even asked her to forgive the perpetrator. Until Li's death, her tormentor was only given a 10-day detention and was still teaching.

Worse still, when Li hesitated to jump off the building, onlookers wickedly clapped and egged her on. For them, the excitement of it all spiced up an otherwise boring day.

All this must have made the girl lose trust in the world. Well-known Chinese writer Lu Xun wrote in 1926, "I am always willing to think the worst of my fellow countrymen. Still, quite a few things have surprised me this time." As many netizens said, his words still apply today.

It's hard to blame one person. In fact, this tragedy is a banality of evil involving many people. The young girl could have been saved if she were given professional psychological support instead of being reported to the school. If school officials treated the incident seriously rather than covering it up, or if the crowd was more caring and tried to dissuade her from taking the deadly leap.

But it was not to be and so was Li.

Educational authorities in Qingyang decided to cancel the teaching qualification of the culprit and dismissed him from the job. Unfortunately, the belated decision is more like a response to public outcry than a punishment to protect young victims of sexual assault.

Sexual harassment hasn't been taken seriously enough in China despite the pain it can inflict. The convict faces a maximum detention of 10 days and a fine of 500 yuan ($76), which is far from a deterrent. And many people consider sexual harassment to be innocuous as it causes little physical harm.

Li's tragedy is proof that ignorance and indifference of ordinary people can make the innocent suffer while the culprits go unpunished. 

As a girl's mother, I feel sorry and frustrated whenever similar incidents take place. Chinese writer Feng Tang wrote that he would teach his daughter it's most important to have a mind as strong as a bastard's. The rude words may be true in a way. I would tell my girl: Even if justice and fairness are sometimes belated, never blame yourself for the mistakes of others.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]

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