5 Things I Want to Tell Nigella Lawson
On Sunday, photos were published showing celebrity chef Nigella Lawson being grabbed on the throat by her husband. The photos splashed over the internet showed him holding her by the throat and her leaving the restaurant in tears. It should come as no surprise that this story caught my attention. Ten years working with women escaping domestic violence leaves its mark on a person. I will always be a victim advocate even if I am no longer in the field. I can't stay quiet on stuff like this.
Nigella's husband, Charles Saatchi, made a statement to the London Evening Standard about the photographs taken of him assaulting his wife. He said,
"There was no grip, it was a playful tiff."
"Nigella's tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt."
Now any seasoned domestic violence advocate will tell you this... there didn't need to be a grip. Of course he didn't have her in a choke hold in public. He is more than likely smarter than that. But if you have seen the photographs then you saw the eye contact of one. The worry in another. The almost eerie calm of two of them. The calm. That kind of calm, centered thinking is a mastered skill. A skill that keeps victims of domestic violence alive.
So we can argue about whether or not he was hurting her in these photographs all day long. But then I would say to you this, "Has your spouse ever grabbed you by the throat during a 'playful tiff'"? My guess is no. I know that it would never even cross my husband's mind to grab for my throat during a "tiff". But that's just the story for 75% of us. For 25% of the population the answer is yes. Because 1 in 4 of us will suffer abuse at the hands of the person who has pledged to love us. Those are the facts. And that is why it comes as no surprise to me that celebrities are not immune. Because no one is.
So I'm angry for her. I am sad for her. And I stand with her. And I have a few things to say to her (and the millions of other people living with the reality of domestic violence).
Take a deep, deep breath.
I can only imagine how painful that must be for you. And if I was a betting woman I'd say that the pain is gripping you on so many different levels. Those levels adding on top of the others and are no doubt crushing you beneath the weight. You are only human after all. Being famous doesn't change that. I cannot imagine how hard it is to be in the spotlight right now. Not just because of what happened at the restaurant but because no one falls in love with abuse. I am nearly certain that he didn't choke you on your first date. You fell in love with him first, right? Love is hard to leave even when the person we love becomes abusive. Actually even more so then. Because abusive people don't just hit. They wear you down emotionally. They use words of love. Of shame. Of manipulation. They use tricks and grand acts of love to turn you back around to them. They trick you into believing you're crazy or that no one would believe you. But I will believe you, Nigella.
You can get through this because you are strong enough.
It might not feel like it right now. But you are strong enough. You just are. Remind yourself of that when you feel like the world is coming down around you. I know you are strong because you have survived. You have no doubt developed a game plan or a way of talking or coping that helps you through an episode of violence. It is a skill that no one wants to have to learn. But you did. And you have strategies to keep yourself safe. All domestic violence victims do. You. Are. Strong.
It's not your fault.
No one has the right to assault you. Or threaten you with violence. Not even your spouse. No matter what came before it. Even if you said something hurtful or mean to him. Acts of violence are the sole responsibility of the person committing them. It's common for abusive people to blame their actions on the person they have harmed. They say things like "If you hadn't made me so angry, I wouldn't have had to hit you" or "It's not my fault that you make me so crazy" But that is a manipulative mind game. And they do it to make you feel crazy and to take the responsibility off of their shoulders and cruelly put it onto yours. But the thing is, its just not ever your fault. It's not.
I'm on your side.
And I'm not the only one. There are people who can help you walk through this fire. Let them help you, Nigella. Because you deserve their help. Please, reach out. Don't isolate yourself. Stay connected. Even if you choose to stay.
You can be free.
The road is hard. But you are already walking a hard road. You already know that you can do hard things. You can be free of this violence. Yes, you can. I know because I've seen it with my own eyes. I've known hundreds of women who have been through this kind of soul crushing sadness. There are millions of women in your shoes.So many of them are free now. It may not seem like it right now, but know that you can absolutely be free. I hope that for you.