So... Nigella Lawson has left her husband.
|Nigella Lawson looking glorious|
There has been a lot of talk about the incident between her and her estranged husband, or, more correctly put, the assault perpetrated on her by him. I thought Juliet McKenna quite good on the subject in her blog, and there were endless column inches everywhere.
Domestic violence is a subject that you might expect me to wade in on loudly and at some length, so some of you are probably surprised that it’s taken me this long.
It’s a tricky subject.
Put simply, if one person is abusing another, mentally or physically, he or she is not demonstrating love. He or she is demonstrating any number of emotions and showing a form of weakness, but he or she is absolutely not, and I cannot express this strongly enough... he or she is NOT demonstrating love.
I was once assaulted by a man. The relationship was short. The man was volatile, and the assault occurred when I vocalised an opinion that I knew he wouldn’t like. Some would say I provoked him. I would, categorically, not say that.
There was a part of me that always knew this man could hit me. Until he did, I was always a little afraid of him, I think. When he did, I was bloody furious.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone take the action I took, and I suppose that it takes a surge of chemicals and a certain sort of control to pull it off, but I did what I did, and I got lucky.
My assailant knocked me to the floor. From somewhere or other, I reasoned that I was in a position of strength, because my legs were where all my power was, and I had the chance to use them. Shouting at the top of my lungs, I started kicking.
He backed off long enough for me to gather myself together and pack a bag.
He didn’t want me to leave, and came at me again. I got in first, the second time, with one, open-handed strike to his face.
I slapped him.
It doesn’t sound like much does it?
For a woman, I have big, flat hands, and I was pretty keyed up on adrenalin, and very, very pissed off.
He tried stepping towards me once more as I tried to leave, but when I lifted my hand a second time, he begged me not to hit him again.
I left, and I never looked back.
People who assault the men and women they claim to love have got all kinds of problems, and some of those problems might be legitimate and they might be treatable, but, even if those people need help, they also need to be separated from the people they are assaulting.
The people being assaulted, and I’m reluctant to call them victims, because, mostly, they’re just people; they’re you and me; they’re men and women with jobs and families and ordinary lives and responsibilities... The people being assaulted need to be separated from the people who are assaulting them, but they also need to know that their assailants are bullies and cowards.
I was lucky enough to see my assailant for what he was, at the time of the assault. I was lucky enough to get angry and to stop my assailant in his tracks. I was lucky enough not to react with the natural freeze response that most people react with. I was lucky enough not to be sitting across a table with a man’s hands around my throat. I was lucky enough to be lying on a kitchen floor with the full use of my vocal cords and my, frankly, athletic legs, and I was lucky enough to be incensed by what was happening to me.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone fight back. I would recommend everyone get out of an abusive relationship at the very first opportunity.
Ms Lawson was married to her assailant for ten years, and I think it’s unlikely that this was the first time that she was mistreated by her husband. A build-up of misery, verbal abuse and small acts of cruelty break down a person’s spirit, giving more and more power to the abuser, and sapping the esteem of the person being abused.
Clever people are often more subtle abusers. I don’t remember, for example, Ms Lawson’s husband ever discussing his food preferences before becoming involved with his wife, a woman whose professional status revolved around food. He undermined her constantly on the subject, talking about liking nursery food, and not eating her dishes, when he might have supported her, or simply not spoken on the subject, in public at all, particularly given his reputation as a taciturn individual.
I wish Ms Lawson well, and I hope she finds some peace in the future and some way to restore her confidence and rebuild her self-esteem, but I suspect her recovery might take some time.