We're now victim blaming Nigella

CLEMENTINE FORD
Last updated 10:48 29/11/2013
nigella
Getty

OUR TUNES HAVE CHANGED: Even if Nigella was doing drugs as alleged, Saatchi still assaulted her, and that's still not okay.

Nigella Lawson
Sunday People
SHOCKING: The Sunday People front page of Charles Saatchi grabbing his wife's throat in public.

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Nigella Lawson 'off her head' on drugs Nigella Lawson a 'habitual criminal" Nigella's assistants 'treated like slaves'

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OPINION: It is nothing short of infuriating that a mere two days after this year's White Ribbon Day event,  and a day before another man was found guilty of the murder of his partner, the Telegraph in the UK has published the kind of victim-blaming, intimate partner violence apologia that you'd expect to find in the latest edition of MRA Weekly.

Writing in Wednesday's online edition of the conservative newspaper, writer Allison Pearson spends some thousand-plus words speculating on what it might mean for the public's perception of advertising bohemoth Charles Saatchi (cautioned by police for assaulting Nigella Lawson at a Mayfair restaurant earlier this year) if allegations of drug use against his former wife are discovered to be true.

The press has been ablaze with Saatchi's accusations that Lawson is an 'habitual criminal' who 'snorted cocaine every day for over a decade'. The claims emerged at a pre-trial hearing for Italian sisters, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, both of whom are accused of fraudulently spending up to £300,000 of Saatchi's company's money on designer clothes and first-class air travel while employed as personal aides to Lawson (that's over $NZ600,000). The Grillos' defence has argued that Lawson provided the sisters with access to Saatchi's credit cards in exchange for their silence over her alleged drug use, which allegedly included her adult daughter Cosima.

Pearson's piece is little more than self-satisfied gossip with a splash of Schadenfreude thrown in about the supposed downfall of the once almighty 'Domestic Goddess'. In a display of feverish hypocrisy, the award-winning journalist and supposed champion of women's issues writes: "If there is any grain of truth in [the drug accusations], and remember these are still only allegations, then I'm not surprised Saatchi angrily accused his wife of being "off her head" and "trashing" her 19-year-old daughter Mimi's life by allowing her to take drugs." [My emphasis]

Despite her throwaway reminder that the allegations are just that at this stage, Pearson goes on to speculate that they might have been what prompted Saatchi to angrily and repeatedly grip Lawson by the neck in a very public dispute back in June.

"What if this villain of the piece was actually trying to save his destructive wife from herself? What if Saatchi lamely excusing the fight outside Scott's as "a playful tiff" was not trying to protect his own reputation, but Nigella's? Physical violence is never excusable, but what if a frustrated Charles was shaking his wife and saying: "Wake up, woman! Look what you're doing to yourself and our family"? What if that tweak on her nose was not aggressive and patronising, as we all supposed, but a dig at her cocaine habit? What if Nigella's tears, as she fled the restaurant, were not of fear, but guilt?"

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To this already appalling assessment of events she cannot possibly hope to have any insight on, she adds this even more gobsmacking conclusion: "If the Grillo sisters turn out to be telling the truth - and I hope they aren't - then Charles Saatchi is the victim of an injustice."

In case the stupidity of that statement was so sheer you found yourself walking through it as if it were a red mist of rage, let me translate it for you. Pearson is saying that if it is discovered Lawson has indeed been using recreational and Class B drugs, then not only will Saatchi have been justified in physically assaulting her - but any public recriminations he might face for doing so are unfair and unjust because he was simply trying to 'save her from herself'.

To paraphrase Twitter user @Paxmee, finally someone is willing to stand up for the people who need it most - rich white violent men who own enormously powerful PR agencies and apparently aren't afraid to use them.

There are two issues that Pearson would have done well to remember here before she sent her salacious tabloid rubbish into the ether (and remember it was The Telegraph who elected to print it). Firstly, that the key word here is 'alleged'.

It isn't enough to just acknowledge that and then blithely ignore all it means so you can concoct a fanciful story in order to justify whatever fall from grace you'd love to see 'the most admired and envied woman of [your] generation' endure while clucking in faux concern about "what the Nigella of the John Diamond years would make of the woman and mother she is said to have become."

Speculating wildly about circumstances of violence and abuse as if they formed part of a soap opera does very real harm to the people victimised in similar situations, many of whom are presented daily with the message that they must be at fault somehow.

But secondly (and most importantly) is that even if Lawson turns out to be a drug fiend of epic proportions, it doesn't have any bearing on her right to be protected from violence and assault.

Lawson could have a drug lab set up in her basement and half of London's Charlie supply stored in baking tins with built in straws throughout her kitchen - it is still not okay for Charles Saatchi to assault her. 

In regards to violence against women, it DOESN'T 'take two to tango'. It takes a perpetrator emboldened by his [or her] own power to willingly and unscrupulously exert it over another human being, with no regard at all for their dignity and rights to autonomy. 

Why are these questions still seen as appropriate topics for debate? There is no excuse for violence, especially not of the kind that sees someone gripping another person by the throat. And journalists - especially the award winning kinds - should know better than to speculate about the 'murky' application of blame in front of a public consciousness already too willing to find escape clauses for the perpetrators of violence against women.

- Daily Life

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