Out of the news and photos that Nigella Lawson appears to have been both verbally and physically threatened by her husband in public comes a pile of comments about how shocking it was that no one actually stood up for her while it was happening.
The thing is, even though I myself have been in a domestically violent relationship, and I’ve also experienced some public abuse in another situation, I am unsure I would intercept if I saw that behaviour.
I know from my own experience, that standing up for someone who is being a victim often leads to the bully or perpetrator turning their vitriol on me, or it means they may calm down, but take theeir abuse more privately, and abuse to a deeper level, because the other partner has “somehow” now been complicit in them losing face for a public loss of control.
I have walked past angry and fighting couples in the street. Just last week I walked past a woman in a supermarket who had a man next to her publicly berating her and telling her she was pathetic. I did slow down. And I looked back, and I did wonder what I could or should do.
A few times I’ve called police.
And sometimes I’ve just completely let it pass by me.
I know how it feels to be abused, and yet, I’ve not always stepped into the defense of someone else – because I have either felt ill equipped or sensed that my interaction may actually inflame the situation.
Abusive relationships are incredibly complex and can be difficult for anyone who has not lived in one to fully understand. A skilled abuser plays more with your mind than your body- and you become filled with self doubt, and empty of self confidence.
For a few, a person pulling them out of that will help. But the vast majority need to somehow see the true reflection of their relationship first. And then take themselves out of it.
While it was done to sell papers, the photographer who took those photos is my hero of the day. I can imagine for Nigella seeing the photos of her own terror and sadness would be a more effective shock to help her stand up and walk, than someone coming in to either break up the interaction by force, or come in with sympathy.
Domestic Violence is incredibly complex. It’s a dynamic that is all about cycles and patterns and yo yos and interactions. We cannot do the work for anyone in an abusive cycle. It’s up to them to stand up and walk. Our job is to be there if asked for, and to be there when that person needs to know they are not alone.
Would I have intercepted for Nigella?
I’m not sure… But I know I am one hundred percent behind her finding her own power and strength in this, and making sure she becomes strong inside enough to not ever find herself in a place where someone she loves would ever treat her that way again.