The assault suffered by Nigella Lawson is a sad reminder that one in four women have, or will face domestic abuse in their lifetime.
Rebecca Suner is a journalist from France who writes about politics and social issues on both sides of the Channel
The assault suffered by Nigella Lawson is a sad reminder that one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.
The striking figure drawn by the Council of Europe dates back from 2002, but a more recent YouGov poll conducted two years ago shows that, if anything, the situation may have become worse: 36 per cent of people in Britain said they knew a victim of domestic abuse.
The pictures published by the Sunday People show art-collector Charles Saatchi gripping his wife by the throat. They are gut wrenching. According to witnesses, Lawson was held repeatedly. She looks scared and tearful.
But in Saatchi’s ‘version’ of events the pictures depict a ‘playful tiff’. His comments were reproduced at large in the media and left, in some instances, unchallenged. Strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence cases – there is absolutely nothing ‘playful’ about that.
Media commentator-in-chief Roy Greenslade even questioned whether qualifying Saatchi’s behaviour as an act of domestic violence may be a ‘rush to judgment’. He also called the incident ‘deeply embarrassing for them both’.
Though Greenslade issued a subsequent apology, his initial reaction represents common misconceptions surrounding domestic violence, namely that victims are just as responsible as their abusive partners.
By giving a platform to abusers and spreading bogus analysis, acts of domestic violence are trivialized, dismissed – one of the many reasons that explain why 81 per cent of cases of domestic violence go unreported.
Domestic violence is about control and domination, and is expressed through a far-range of behaviours and pressures: physical violence but also bullying, social humiliations, or economical dependency.
According to organisations fighting against domestic violence, the government’s austerity measures are putting victims at risk by cutting essential financial support. Between 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, 31 per cent of funding allocated to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector coming from local authorities was slashed.
The charity Refuge has expressed particular concern at the welfare reform being rolled out in July, and fear victims will be plunged into debt as a result of the benefit cap. They also point at the new universal credit scheme:
“Under this system, all benefit payments will go directly to one member of a couple. In cases of domestic violence, this could give perpetrators command of household income, further enabling them to control and isolate their partners.”
Lawson’s case is unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg: two women die every week because of domestic violence, and every minute, the police get a report of an incident.
Whatever she as an individual decides to do, raising awareness and breaking stereotypes surrounding domestic violence is key to change Britain’s dreadful record.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.