Kim Lee could hardly contain her emotions in the auditorium at Capital Normal University on Nov. 25, where she had eloquently shared her story of bravery with students just a few seconds prior. Staring at the signatures and blessings on heart-shaped greeting cards presented to her by students in an ornamental box, Kim Lee burst into tears. Following an interim of silence, audience members passed a box of tissues to her seat.
Life has turned upside down for Lee in the past few months since her celebrity husband Li Yang, the magnate founder of Crazy English language training centers, knocked her to the floor, slamming her in the face in front of their three-year-old daughter. Pushed over the limit, she called police and posted pictures of her swollen forehead and bruised legs on Weibo (China's equivalent to Twitter).
The photos shocked netizens all over the country, who largely knew Li as the educator who invented the iconic "yelling" strategy to memorize English phrases and sentences.
In the media circus that ensued following the allegations, Lee found, as a victim, she had no more advantage than her husband. In a TV interview, Li claimed his American wife and the children from their marriage were part of an experiment conducted for his career in English teaching and cross-cultural communication. He also argued that the controversy stemmed from Lee's misunderstandings of Chinese culture, which have led some to believe that he expected his wife to accept the violence and remain silent.
In her Weibo, Lee said she could not bear her husband using the media spotlight as an opportunity for self-promotion, which she said hurt her even deeper than her physical injuries.
"I'm American and Yang is Chinese that is not the problem, the problem is violence," Lee said.
"If I can help to change the concepts that domestic violence is 'common, acceptable, should not be disclosed, the fault of the wife, and part of Chinese culture', then I feel both honored and obligated to do so," Lee said in an email to the Beijing Fan Bao Culture Development Co. Ltd, a anti-domestic violence organization in Beijing. "Domestic violence is not culture. Domestic violence is a crime."