The enactment of China’s nationwide 2015 Anti-Domestic Violence (DV) law represented a significant shift in Chinese policy concerning criminal and legal responses to DV. The Anti-DV law requires prompt interventions to protect DV victims using comprehensive legal procedures. Professionals, whose work require them to address DV, thus play a critical role in effectively implementing this new policy. To date however, little research has explored professionals’ responses to this important policy change. Thus, this exploratory, cross-sectional study aimed to assess key stakeholders’ (n=683) awareness and attitudes towards the Anti-DV policy and its enforcement. Our study was guided by two research questions (1) what are the attitudes of Chinese DV stakeholders toward the Anti-DV law; and (2) do those attitudes vary by professional experiences, as well as by respondents’ attitudes concerning DV and gender norms?
As part of a broader study on criminal justice responses to DV, we surveyed judges, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and Chinese women’s federation staff across multiple cities in Guangdong. The survey questionnaire included Chinese-translated measures regarding respondents’ attitudes toward the Anti-DV policy, perspectives concerning DV, and their gender norms. Study measures showed a range of reliabilities, from acceptable to high (Guttman’s λ2 range: 0.76-0.96). Collected data was managed and cleaned with missing values and outliers, and 683 respondents were included in the final analysis.
Kruskal–Wallis tests and Fisher’s exact test showed differences in beliefs and attitudes regarding the Anti -DV policy and its enforcement. Women’s federation staff and judges, relative to police and prosecutors, were more likely to agree that Anti-DV policy enforcement has a positive effect on addressing DV (χ2 (3) = 64.365, p < .001). Alternatively, the prosecutor and police respondents reported that they were less familiar with the provisions of the DV law compared to other stakeholders (p < .001). Overall, OLS regression results revealed [F(15, 532) = 8.88, p < .001, R2 = .20] that stakeholders’ positive attitudes toward the Anti-DV law were associated with respondents’ supportive beliefs toward proactive police responses to DV (B = .169, p < .001), perceptions of gender equality (B = .133, p < .001), and disapproval of DV (B = .114, p < .001).
Conclusions & Implications
Compared to women’s federation staff and judges, police and prosecutor respondents tended to be less supportive of the effectiveness of China’s new Anti-DV policy, and did not report a clear understanding of the law’s provision. Accordingly, relevant, Chinese professional organizations could consider policy education to help increase police officers’ and prosecutors’ knowledge and support of the policy. In addition, given that attitudes toward the Anti-DV law are associated with individual beliefs concerning gender inequality and DV, such professional training should raise awareness regarding the seriousness of DV, as well as seek to address tolerance for DV and traditional gender norms. Guided by the study’s findings, we will present implications for the enactment of the Anti-DV policy, as well as recommendations for future research with larger, geographically diverse samples throughout China.