Friday, 29 November 2013

#TeamNigella


Earlier this year, pictures were printed in the national press, showing "Domestic Goddess" Nigella Lawson and her now estranged husband, Charles Saatchi, sitting outside a restaurant.  That description sounds innocuous, doesn't it?  Perfectly harmless.  Untill you see the pictures.

I won't risk triggering abuse survivors by publishing them here - I suspect we've all seen them, anyway - but they did not depict a happy couple, enjoying a romantic lunch.  In one photograph, Saatchi appeared to have his hands around Nigella's neck and she wore a look of fear.  In another, he had his hand clamped over her mouth.  In a further picture, he appeared to be grabbing her by the nose.  In the shots of Nigella leaving the restaurant, she appeared visibly upset.  

A picture supposedly speaks a thousand words and these photos were positively screaming.  Viewing the photographs, it was hard to see Saatchi's behaviour as anything other than abusive.  Months later and in spite of Saatchi's flimsy "I wasn't strangling her; I was holding her head to make her focus" excuse, the pictures are still hugely uncomfortable viewing.

Following the publication of the pictures, Nigella maintained her silence on what had occurred (Saatchi, meanwhile, referred to it as a "playful tiff").  Divorce proceedings began.  Our sympathy went out to Nigella, as it rightly should.  Now however, two former employees of the couple are in court, facing accusations of theft/fraud, having spent thousands of pounds using company credit cards.  The resulting court case has given Saatchi a chance to speak out about his marriage and home life.  Or, to put it another way:  To discredit the woman he may very well view as having ruined his reputation (in spite of him having very much done that himself).


The two former employees have accused Nigella of having a serious drug habit and they say that she turned a blind eye to their credit card fraud, on the condition that they did not speak out about her addiction, especially to her husband.  This has given Saatchi the opportunity to show himself as a victim - a poor, distressed man, vehemently anti-drugs, who had to give up on his drug-addict wife, after she simply wouldn't stop using.

Here's the thing.  Abusers like to shame their victims as much as possible.  Public humiliation?  Bring it on.  Saatchi has already at best patronised and belittled his wife in public; why stop there?  Going along with the "Nigella is a druggie" line (no pun intended) gives Saatchi a way to make himself seem like he has the moral high ground.  That he did what he's shown to be doing in those photos out of frustration.  Because Nigella made him do it.  You've no idea how common an excuse that is.  How frequently abusers will deflect any responsibility for their words or actions onto their victims, rather than accept that their behaviour is a choice (which it is).  Unfortunately, abuse is almost a taboo subject in society and it's much easier for the public to swallow those excuses, than to accept that someone might be capable of mistreating those close to them.  Hence we get articles like this horrendous piece of victim-blaming from Allison Pearson, suggesting that if Nigella is a drug addict, then perhaps Saatchi is the real victim in all of this.

So let's ask ourselves that question, shall we?  If Nigella Lawson is a drug addict, does that make Charles Saatchi "the victim of an injustice?"

Short answer.

First things first - and I accept that without Nigella's confirmation, we can only say that her relationship with Saatchi might have been abusive, due to the photographs that seem to suggest as much - did you know that women in abusive relationships are up to NINE times more likely to succumb to some form of substance abuse?  The use of some form of drug - be it alcohol, pain killers or something stronger - is all too often a coping mechanism for those who endure physical violence or psychological abuse as part of a close relationship.

Secondly - and actually, more importantly - regardless of what drug habits a person might have, there is never, EVER an excuse for abuse.  I don't care whether Nigella Lawson had half of Columbia stuffed up her right nostril; Saatchi should never have had his hands around her neck, or his hand clamped over her mouth.  Sod "frustration" as an excuse - if you're frustrated, walk away.  Be - in your eyes - the bigger, better person.  Resorting to physical violence as a reaction to a person's drug use?  Not the answer.  Not even close to being the answer.

Not only did Saatchi's actions make him look bad, but his words are now making him appear emotionally abusive, too.  From making comments about Nigella's drug use just days ago, to casually admitting in court today that he has no evidence to back those comments up, he comes across as though he's simply trying to discredit his very famous, beautiful and popular wife.  

It has now also been made apparent that in October, Saatchi wrote a letter, threatening to sue his wife - who has maintained her silence on all things Saatchi - if she chose not to testify at the court proceedings against their former employees.  In the letter, Saatchi also refers to Nigella as possibly having "no recollection of events" regarding their former staff members, due to her heavy drug use.  Thus making her appearance at the trial rather useless, but let's not let that get in the way of a good threat, eh?

I have to say that I have no evidence beyond some photos printed in the national press, to prove that Saatchi is an abusive man.  I have no evidence that Nigella is or is not a drug addict.  But I can say with certainty that Saatchi's behaviour paints him in a very dim light.  Nigella - regardless of what substances she might have taken at any point in her life - did not deserve to have her neck squeezed, or a hand shoved across her mouth.  She has not made any public comments about her husband, or tried to discredit him in any way.  If she has an issue with drugs, then she deserves help to conquer that issue, rather than ridicule and yet more public humiliation.  If that accusation is proved to be unfounded, then I fear it says much more about Saatchi than it ever did about Nigella in the first place.

 I say this a lot, but it's worth repeating:  There's never an excuse for abuse and the victim is never to blame.  Whatever the real circumstances - whatever really happened between she and her estranged husband - Nigella deserves to be given some privacy and respect.




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