I Don't Care If He's Your Oppa: Victim Shaming and Celebrity Worship
In case you haven't heard, Kim Hyun Joong of Boys over Flowers and Playful Kiss fame is facing assault charges from a former girlfriend. I don't want to get into all of the details, but you can read the latest on it here and here. As is always the case with celebrity scandals, every article on the topic is covered with a wide range of opinions, from those who want to lock the guy up and throw away the key, to die-hard fangirls shouting, "Oppa, fighting!"
At this point, I don't really care to hash out everyone's theories on what may or may not have happened. Sadly, famous people--even handsome famous people--are capable of abuse. Sadly, it's also possible that she exaggerated or fabricated details to get a settlement. In either case, the outcome is disheartening and upsetting. The fact of the matter is that we don't know all of the details yet, though I will say that his admission to using physical violence even once is twice too many in my book.
One thing I can talk about at this point is the fan response, which I find troubling. Hashing out all of the possibilities is one thing, but many of the responses demonstrate a lack of understanding about abuse. Here are a few samples of actual comments that just aren't okay. Let's discuss them, shall we?:
1. "I would like to know what made him so mad that he would hit. Did she hit him first?"
"She probably provoke him and started to argue with him to get him to respond. Till he finally popped. Because normally nothing fazes him."
*Deep breaths**Deep breaths* I'm going to try to keep my rage-o-meter down as much as possible, but things like this make it really hard. If Kim Hyun Joong hit his girlfriend, then he and he alone is responsible for his actions. Victims do not "make" abusers hit them. Even if she made him mad, she did not deserve to be hit. Period.
2. "Hello, then she is an idiot, who stays with a man who is beating you up constantly? Another publicity hungry girl wanting to end someone's career. Does she know how to chew and walk at the same time? She so badly want to stay in the public eye so she is claiming abuse. Sorry, get a life which is your own."
Still others questioned the validity of her claims because she didn't report him for two months. Here's the thing: When someone is an abusive relationship, it doesn't mean that she (or he, because abuse happens to men, too) is "weak" or "stupid." Why didn't she report him earlier? Maybe he apologized, and she believed he could change. Maybe she was afraid of the repercussions if she came forward about one of Korea's top stars (which is also probably why she's keeping her identity secret). You can read a full answer to this question here, but the "why" doesn't matter, and it doesn't undermine her claims.
There are many smart, talented, wonderful men and women who suffer abuse. It isn't our job to judge them for staying. It's our job to make it easier for them to leave.
3. "Idk but I will support him and I don't care about whats the true"
We should care about what's true. Withholding judgment until you get all of the facts is one thing. It's still seeking truth. Saying that you don't care what's true suggests that fame supersedes truth. When it comes to abuse, fame can't come first. If Kim Hyun Joong abused his girlfriend, she deserves to have the truth heard. She deserves to feel safe. If Kim Hyun Joong didn't abuse his girlfriend, then he deserves to have the truth heard. Either way, hiding the truth only multiplies injustice.
I have to say that the vast majority of comments on the KHJ articles have been thoughtful and anti-abuse. Many of the comments I posted above had appropriate responses from other people. But these kinds of comments are widespread enough that we need to take a long, hard look at celebrity culture. Because if even one victim gets bullied into silence, it's one too many.