READER REPORT:

'I was Nigella Lawson'

Last updated 12:00 19/06/2013
Nigella Lawson
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Nigella Lawson.

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In case you haven't heard, photos of Nigella Lawson being publicly abused by her husband Art collector Charles Saatchi at a London restaurant on June 9 have been published.

Then an Australian DJ cause outrage by saying Nigella should take a stand against domestic violence because she is a public figure.

Nigella's spokesman has confirmed she and her children had left the family home, but it's been hours and she still hasn't made a public appearance apologising for being a victim. Funny that.

Because that's the reality of people's attitude to domestic violence. Much like misconceptions about women who wear skimpy clothing asking to get raped, there's always this judgmental edge to discussions of domestic violence - if the woman involved hadn't been so blind/such a doormat/psychic by not getting involved with the guy in the first place, then the abuse would never have happened.

I can't think why victims of domestic violence don't line up to wear such a proud label: sucker, not survivor. But then without our voices, the story never changes and the misconceptions keep on dominating the conversation. So I'm taking a stand, because of Nigella, because I am finally enough years distant from my domestic violence experience to be able to accept that I should have done things differently, without hating myself.

The details of my story are barely relevant to the opinion you will have after reading this. I was young and vulnerable, I met a guy who seemed really nice, but wasn't. We married when I was 20, and it was only after that that the abuse started.

It took me three years to get away, and over a decade to recover, during which I had another marriage fail because I was so messed up.

Even now I feel like a fraud classifying myself as an abuse survivor. While some abusers commit 'Once Were Warriors' type criminal assaults on their partners, for many of us the question of whether or not abuse is taking place isn't actually as easy to determine.

I don't have a medical record of broken bones or a photo of a black eye to show you. I never had enough evidence to go to the cops either. Bullies don't actually need to do much to you to make you afraid of them, and they don't tend to do it when anyone else is around. When it's over and your partner acts like it never happened, the momentum to leave dissipates.

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It takes resources and optimism to overcome the hurdles of leaving a bad relationship, even when abuse isn't involved. It can be hard to turn around and ask for help when you've been making excuses for your ex for years and distancing yourself from your friends so that it is easier to lead a double life. Not to mention that you no longer have the self esteem to think that you are capable of coping on your own and you can't ask for help because you are ashamed of having been complicit in your own victimisation.

I can't even imagine how much harder it must be if you had kids and weren't in a position to support them financially. Other people blaming and judging sure as hell aren't going to make starting over any easier.

I am grateful to be able to look back on this part of my past from a safe distance. It was hard, but I got out, stayed out, and got better.

The name of the author has been withheld to protect her identity.


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