By MIA FREEDMAN
‘But how could this happen to her?’ Did you find yourself thinking that when you heard that Nigella Lawson had been physically attacked by her husband in public? I did.
She’s fiercely intelligent, wildly successful, supremely confident and independently wealthy. How could a woman like THAT fall victim to abuse? And please. Let’s not call it alleged.
He grabbed her repeatedly around the throat and choked her, firstly with one hand, then with both. He pulled at her nose. She tried to calm him down and ended up fleeing the restaurant in tears. It was all captured by someone with a camera. Thank God.
Because any man who assaults his wife in public… well, imagine what he must do in private.
But that thought – the shock that a woman like Nigella would never find herself in an abusive relationship – was fleeting. You see, I know what it’s like when the image you present to the world is in stark contrast to the life you’re leading at home.
I spent more than two years in an abusive relationship in my early twenties. My boyfriend never assaulted me but his abuse encompassed everything but physical violence.
On paper, it made no sense. While I was hardly Nigella, I had a great job, amazing girlfriends, a close, supportive family and financial independence. Comparatively, he had nothing. A patchy job. An expired lease. Broke.
Nigella’s husband is the opposite of my ex. Charles Saatchi is rich, powerful and successful. No matter. Abusive men come in a variety of packages and exist in a variety of circumstances.
What women who stay with these men have in common is this: we find ourselves complicit in protecting these men. We help to hide their behaviour from public view.
We keep their secrets from those who love us, from those who would rightly tell us to get out, get away. We make excuses. We smooth over cracks. We tell ourselves it will get better; that it won’t happen again. We accept their apologies and we hope like hell they’ll change.