In this report, I will analyze the crime which represented in the newspaper by EJ Insight Hong Kong on the 7th of December 2018 with an ironic topic called “Elderly man may avoid jail time after killing sick wife.” This news was talking about an elderly man killed his ailing wife by pressing a bamboo stick when his wife was sleeping just only out of love and he wanted his wife can wriggle out of the sorrow. This tragic news came as a complete shock for the public and arouse social attention because of the victim and offender in this case and the real bottom cause behind the tragedy.
This report will begin by having a brief definition of the violence about this case, then the next part will focus on what happened in the news and analysis the accuracy of the source, such as how the media source represents the victim and offender in this case. Finally, the report will mention several theoretical explanations and academic literature to explain more about violent crime.
The definition of violence is meaning to use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community intentionally, that either result in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation (VPA, 2011).
There is different violence which happening in the society. The case about the elder man killed his sick wife was a domestic violence as the man was indeed to kill his wife whatever happens.
But at the same time, the wife may also get the emotional and psychological abuse to her husband as the elder man was already facing too much pressure than he can bear.
According to Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADA), domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse (CCADA, 2013). It could affect individuals no matter their age, gender, economic status, religion, education or race, etc.
Perhaps we may not aware, but we must admit that the media has become very important to us just like our daily needs. We can receive different kinds of information, get entertainment through the media. But what role does the media should play in our society?
In recent years, the mass media has used it’s influenced to shape the “Mass Culture” directly or indirectly. We are not difficult to find out the influence of the media on our thoughts and values.
While the public was believing the media and it has a great influence on people, the media should bear some responsibilities which they should report facts, communicates opinions or not distort the facts in an honest and fair manner. The media should have the responsibilities to let the public have their own analysis about understanding the incident.
On the 6th of June 2017, Wong was a retired bus repair worker who was suffering from depressive disorder had strangled 76-year-old, Lam, by pressing a bamboo stick against her neck when she was sleeping in their public housing flat. Lam was living in Care and Attention Homes for the Elderly (C&A Homes) before, but she had rejected to live there anymore as she disliked living in a residential care home for the elderly. Therefore, Lam was moving back to the public house to live with her husband and Wong started the long-term care for his wife. (EJ Insight, 2018)
Wong was the only caregiver to take care of his wife as their son who suffered from colon cancer was killed by himself about ten years ago when Wong was 70. In 2015, Wong’s wife was having a stroke which affected her right half of her body, she was also suffering from a thyroid disorder, rheumatoid arthritis and hypertension in few years ago. Wong also mentioned that his wife lost her taste and blindness, she could not watch TV with him and always felt painful. (EJ Insight, 2018)
Lam’s husband said he was worried about his health was getting worse, and he afraid that there is no one can take care of his wife in case he goes a step ahead of his wife. Consequently, Wong decided to end his wife’s life which can put her out of further potential misery in the future.
Applying to this case, does the media has taken their responsibilities to let the public know the truth? In a study of ‘Headlines in Newspaper Editorials: A Contrastive Study’, it shows that ‘The headline is neither a semantic summary of the story nor a pragmatic attracting-device for the reader, but a communicative device whose function is to produce the optimal level of affinity between the content of the story and the reader’s context of interpretation.'(Dor, 2003)
In this newspaper, the headline which represented by EJ Insight was “Elderly man may avoid jail time after killing sick wife”. When the newspaper was using this title, the public may easy to be attracted by the words of ‘avoid jail time’ and let them reminiscent of the old man was escaped from the offence. But the media did not take their responsibilities to report the fear of the news even they had mentioned that the old man was willing to bear his responsibilities after killing his chronical wife because the headline of the news may already affect the public to think about the old man should be the offender in this case. In fact, the final decision was made by justice as she considered handing out a probation order to the elderly defendant and the old man may also be the victim in this violence.
The statistics and Media Representation
As the previous section which had mentioned that the old man may become the offender of the domestic violence as he had killed his sick wife. Under some of the statistics or research in the past was found out that most of the victim in a violence were women, such as the reported from Social Welfare Department shown that there are 86.1% of female which had abuse experience before (Figure 1), which means this is an atypical case when we argued that the old man was also the victim in the violence. But there are some other studies shown that lots of males had to face different abuse, for example, the statistics of types of abuse by victim’s sex (Figure 2) found out that there is 64% male who had faced physical abuse (Social Welfare Department, 2016). Besides, there is a research called ‘suicide rates by gender in Hong Kong’ (Figure 3) reported that male got a higher suicide rate than female (HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, 2016).
In the source which report the case of domestic violence in an elderly couple, it didn’t try to use some statistics to be an evidence to prove that the old man in the case was also the victim as he had also facing different pressure when he was taking care of his wives, such as illness and financial problem. For the media, they should show more statistics to let the public to have their critical thinking to determine the victim and the offender in this case which the media can also remain neutral.
(Figure 1: Social Welfare Department, 2019)
(Figure 2: Social Welfare Department, 2016)
(Figure 3: HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, HKU)
In the above section, we had mentioned that this is an atypical case in the past, but these kinds of cases will be common in the future because of the community support for these group of people are not enough, especially the medical support, financial support and long-term care for the elderly, which let them facing lots of stress when their health condition was getting worse and their family support were not enough. While the person’s social situation was feeling helpless or being isolated, they may try to end the life of other people or itself which hope can settle the problem.
Firstly, gender symmetry explanation can link the relationship between violence and gender. Domestic violence is traditionally seen as violence by men towards women, but can men also be victims? Some of the researchers who claim that women and men are victimized by domestic violence in roughly equal numbers in decades. (Michael S. Kimmel, 2002)
Dr Sarah Wallace said that the reasons why domestic violence was not reported by both men and women may because of embarrassment or shame, difficulty in recognizing and accepting abusive behaviours. Besides, the male role is an ingrained thought in traditional Chinese culture, the men need to show their masculinity to take care of their family otherwise they may feel shame, guilty on their weakness. When the men were facing different stress, they may try to find some ways to express their pressure, and the worst situation will be suicide or kill their family members but fewer males would be trying to find some people to settle the problem with them. Within this newspaper, it may explain why the old man was feeling guilty to kill his wife but didn’t find any help which try to settle the problem before he planned to kill his wife.
Additionally, the mental disorder may also explain why the violence has happened. In 2009, there is a literature review found out that around 65 percent of people who had committed murder-suicides were suffering from depression, and it may explain why the old man may choose to kill his wife because he had suffered from severe depression and confirmed by three psychiatrists.
In this society, it is easy to put the problem to the individual such as he was suffering to depression and blaming the victim, but is it the truth of the violence? The final theory is structure explanation which tries to figure out this question. According to Criminal Justice Research, the structure approach had explained on how individuals need to situate within and experience with the large-scale of social institutions such as government.
Wong and Lam’s case was an example to reflect the issue on how’s Government support to this group of people. According to the Census and Statistics Department in Hong Kong, there are around 300, 000 persons in families of elderly doubletons and they didn’t get enough support from the Government. Hong Kong Government tries to promote ageing in place which wants to encourage the elders to live in the community, but it didn’t have adequate medical and financial support for the elderly which help them to have a proper care. When the elders’ health condition was getting worse and their economic class is low, they may not get better medical treatment for them. At the same time, they may need to wait for a long time to move in the residential care homes or living in private homes for the elderly which provide variable quality of care.
In conclusion, Wong and Lam’s case was atypical in traditional domestic violence but after some result of the statistics or literature, we should be more aware that men also can be the victim of the violence. The report found out that the media source cannot give a balanced and fair presentation of the violent offender when applying to this case and the headline of the news was even let the public to have a misunderstanding of the story and focusing on the old man wanted to avoid the responsibilities. But after exploring three theoretical approaches for the violence, even though the man may have a choice to choose whether to kill his wife or not, there are still have other factors to make the offender to force to do the decision, such as when the old man was facing the stress on taking care of his wife but the society.
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