In China today, some still believe that a husband cannot rape his wife, and some wives erroneously believe they cannot report their husbands for sexual or domestic abuse.
However, as domestic violence draws wider attention, more and more Chinese women are coming forward to expose the physical and emotional suffering they have endured from their husbands.
Chinese courts have heard more than 20 cases involving marital rape in the past decade, according to the Beijing-based Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Center.
One husband, for example, was sentenced in September 2003 by a court in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, to three years in prison for raping his wife.
Reports of domestic violence have been on the rise in recent years, and in many cases involve sexual abuse or forced sex, said Wang Xingjuan, director of the center.
The counseling center has been operating two women's hotlines (010-6403 3383, 6407 3800) for the past decade and studies women's issues.
The hotline received roughly 230 complaints about domestic violence in 2002, much more than its average annual 50 cases over the preceding several years.
Researchers say domestic violence stems from the centuries-old stale belief that men are superior to women.
The rising pressures of modern life have triggered an increasing number of urban domestic violence cases. In the past, most cases of spousal abuse were believed to have occurred in rural areas, Wang said.
A 32-year-old woman in Beijing's Pinggu County acknowledged that she once decided to kill her husband and almost committed suicide because she saw no way out after suffering years of sexual abuse and beatings by her husband.
The mother of an 8-year-old child, the woman said she could no longer bear her husband's 10 years of sexual abuse, which caused her extreme physical suffering, including serious gynecological diseases. Sometimes her husband forced her to have sex even as their relatives and children were present.
(China Daily March 4, 2004)