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Media abuzz over Nigella photo

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The media is abuzz with the story that Nigella Lawson was held by the throat by her husband whilst having an argument about their children in a fashionable London restaurant. According to Charles Saatchi the picture of him putting his hand around the throat of his wife showed nothing more than a playful tiff. Mr Saatchi told the London Evening Standard “…we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly whilst attempting to emphasise my point.

“There was no grip, it was a playful tiff… Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt.”

Of course only Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson know the truth and it is wrong for anyone to make a judgement without knowing the full facts.

It is a commonplace in the dynamics of an abusive relationship for the perpetrator of abuse to be in denial: to be unable to accept that he/she has done anything wrong. It is a commonplace for the perpetrator to deny that the victim has been hurt, humiliated and controlled.

Such is the degree of control that one person can have over the other in the dysfunctional relationships that exist within domestic abuse that the victim can also be in denial. The victim can fail to see what is so obvious to the neutral observer. They can fail to see that they are being controlled, bullied, humiliated and abused. It is only when this moment of clarity occurs that victims can seek help and make informed decisions which will change their lives.

Whilst making no judgement about what is happening in the lives of Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson, most neutral observers would be shocked at the scene which has been photographed and witnessed in public.  Most women on the receiving end would not consider that to be acceptable. Most men would know it cannot be justified. The reported incident simply goes to show that the potential for domestic abuse exists in all relationships regardless of money, class, occupation or education. Domestic abuse did not stop in the 1970s.  It is still with us. Women, men and children are victims every day and the impact is often life long.

The causes of domestic abuse are complex. Remedies in emergency cases are much more readily available from the courts than in the past. Specialist lawyers can act quickly and with compassion. There are specialist agencies to support victims in most towns and cities – they are over-worked and under-funded.

Long term remedies require longer term, intensive professional input. These resources are very limited especially for children and perpetrators. Working with perpetrators is important because they can move from family to family. One victim may get an injunction to remove the perpetrator from her life but there is nothing to stop him from moving on to victim after victim.

Stephensons’ Family department has a specialist domestic abuse team in each of its six offices with accredited specialists attuned to the needs of those affected by domestic abuse. We offer legal aid and affordable fixed fee services for every aspect of family law.

By family partner, Mike Devlin