Sadly no country is immune to this issue. No culture has figured out how to eradicate this problem. So, when we hear of abuse we want to stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves. Here in the United States, if you have certain jobs (such as a teacher or pastor) you are what is called a "mandatory reporter" and if we even suspect that a child or teenager is being abused we are required to report our suspicions. So we try very hard to watch out for those who are in our care. But even so, the problem is still there and shows no signs of going away. It can feel like a losing battle. But then you hear a story that is so heinous that you simply can't look away from it and you realize that you MUST find a way to do something. For me, the story of what has happened to The East Light was one of those moments.
If you are unfamiliar with The East Light, they are a Korean Pop Group that debuted in 2016. The members currently range in age from 15-18. Last week it came out that the group had been verbally and physically abused by their producer and CEO for nearly 4 years. That means that when the abuse started the ages of the group ranged from around 11-14 years old. They were children! According to Korean culture you are not an adult until you are 20 so even now they are all STILL minors. The leader of the group, Lee Seok Cheol (18 years old), held a press conference where he told in detail about some of the abuse they had received. The video is hard to watch, but I urge you to watch it. It has English subtitles and we need to hear his story. Abuse victims feel they will not be heard or believed, this is one way we can show him that we hear him. This young man is so brave in the face of what has to be overwhelming fear. He talks about how he and the members were beaten with microphones, baseball bats and other things. He personally had a guitar string wrapped around his neck for four hours and if he messed up, it would be pulled so as to strangle him. They were threatened that they would be killed if they told their parents. Remember this started 4 years ago when they were very young teens so it's no wonder they believed the threats.
Their company has denied the charges in some respects, but even in their denials they talk about how they knew that abuse had happened, so I'm not sure that can actually be called a denial. In their own words they found out about the abuse well over a year ago and yet the Producer in question was not fired. He resigned recently (if I'm understanding the news correctly). Fortunately The East Light members have photographic, audio, and text evidence of the abuse that happened. Plus this video, which came out from The East Light themselves in 2017 is, in my opinion, video evidence as well. Starting at the 27 second mark, you can clearly hear one of the members being beaten in the background while he says (in Korean) "It was a mistake!" and "It hurts!" and you can hear him crying out in pain. This is not something that can easily be swept under the rug. Maybe more disturbing is that if you keep watching you see that this young man now has to join the rest of the group for the video and act as if nothing had happened.
So, you might be wondering why am I telling you this. Many of you who will read this blog, don't listen to Korean Pop. Here is why. When we hear of abuse in the world, we MUST shine a light on it. Evil thrives in darkness. It's not about the fact that these are K-pop musicians. It's the fact that they are children who have been abused brutally and their lives threatened. And they are not the only ones. This happens all over the world in all sorts of circumstances to people of all ages, races, and stages of life. WE MUST STAND UP FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES.
How? I'm glad you asked. Here are three things literally anyone can do.
1) Listen! As I mentioned earlier, people who have been abused feel that they won't be heard and won't be believed. We must listen to them. If you are with a person who wants to share their story with you, Listen. Don't judge. Don't give advice. Listen. Those who have been abused MUST first be heard. If you can listen in person, of course that is the best way. But if that is not possible, if you can, find another way to listen. For example, in The East Light situation, we can watch the press conference. Seeing the number of views go up on YouTube would be encouraging to The East Light and frightening to the abusers. Even a small gesture like that shows that people cared enough to listen.
2) Show your Support! In all parts of the world there are ways to show support for abuse victims. It could be taking part in a walk-a-thon. It could be volunteering at a center that helps abuse victims. It could be as simple as using a hashtag like the one for the situation above (#JusticefortheEastLight) to raise awareness or signing a petition in support of anti-abuse legislature. In whatever part of the world you are in, find out how you are able to show support, and then show it. You might feel uncomfortable, but this is not about our comfort. This is bigger than that.
3) Educate yourself! Do you know that signs of abuse? Do you know who to call if you see those signs? Do you know the places near you that provide services for those who have been abused? If you answered "No" to any of those questions, then you need to educate yourself. Because if you don't know what to look for, you may be missing signs around you that someone NEEDS you to see. It's not hard to find this information. Literally type in "Signs of abuse" into any search engine and you will be given multiple resources. Sit down and read some of them. All it will cost you is a little time.
These are just a few small things that anyone can easily do to help #EndViolence. If one person does these three things, it is helpful. However, if EVERYONE did just these three things, I believe we could make an immense and lasting impact. Why? Because can you imagine what would happen if everyone was showing their support for those who have been abused in some small way? How much abuse would go unnoticed, if everyone knew the signs of abuse and were actively looking for them? What change in society there would be if abuse victims felt they could share their stories because people were taking the time to actually listen? If we each do our part, there is no way that the world doesn't change. #DO3THINGS
Will you join me and #DO3THINGS? Let's change the world!
For the USA, the national domestic abuse hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).