Comment: Charles Saatchi’s brutish bullying must bring the necessary public response to what is all too often considered a ‘private’ matter.
The latest report into domestic violence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes for grim reading. In the most wide reaching study of it’s kind, in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, it is reported that 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual or physical violence, and that assault at the hands of an intimate partner or ex-partner are by far the most common.
It is not clear if Nick Clegg considers these findings to be ‘fleeting‘ or not but Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO has correctly described the findings as revealing ‘a global health problem of epidemic problems’.
Recent photographs of Charles Saatchi ’emphasising [his] point’ by grabbing wife Nigella Lawson by the throat, Nick Clegg’s bumbling response when asked about his views on those photographs and Saatchi’s chilling account of what was first described as a ‘playful tiff‘ before the acknowledgment of his common assault provide a salient backdrop to the release of the WHO report.
Saatchi attempted to clarify matters with a carefully crafted statement following his acceptance of a caution from Metropolitan police and duly provided more clarity than he surely intended, his comments serving only to further undermine his pitiful attempts at justification. ‘I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled’, he boldly declared, seemingly incognizant of the idea that two people might prefer to discuss such things together in partnership, rather than simply dictate to one another.
It is tragic that Nigella Lawson finds herself unwittingly transformed from domestic goddess to the face of domestic violence but the tragedy lies in her having to live with such a pervading threat to her health and the very real threat to the mental wellbeing of her children.
A lesser known consequence of the prevailing tide of domestic violence is the detrimental effects on children witnessing such violence. In 2003, a staggering meta analytical report of some 118 studies concerning itself with the psychosocial outcomes of children who witness interparental violence found that not only was there a significant association between exposure and child problems but that those outcomes were not significantly different to those found in children who had experienced the physical or sexual abuse themselves.
In the UK, domestic violence kills two women every week. The response to this horror ought to be multifaceted on behalf of government and unflinching in it’s delivery. Unfortunately, the only multifaceted aspect to the government’s toolkit is the wide ranging nature of the impositions it places before women who find themselves living in such peril.
The benefit cap which will roll out in July, the new universal credit scheme (stipulating that all payments be made to one named individual in a relationship) which will result in abusers strengthening their control on household finances and the abolition of community care grants and crisis loans will only serve to further jeopardise women’s security and compromise their ability to escape. Another problem highlighted recently by Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, is that local authorities under increasing pressure to cut costs are prioritising their funding for local residents. This is particularly damaging for women subjected to domestic violence who often travel far from their homes in search of safety.
The picture in Ireland is just as bleak. Council of Europe (COE) recommendations are that there be one refuge place (space to accommodate one women and her children) per 10,000 people. In Ireland, that would equate to 446 spaces. Currently there are 143 spaces available and funding continues to be cut. In 2011, on 2,537 occasions services were unable to accommodate women and their children seeking urgent assistance due to their places being full or there being a lack of refuge in the area.
Charles Saatchi last year published a collection of responses to journalists (Saatchi rarely provides interviews and we now know why) on a range of topics. It’s title, ‘Be the Worst You Can Be: Life’s Too Long for Patience and Virtue‘, seems all the more loathsome given recent events. The truth is that Charles Saatchi, for whatever success he has achieved in his professional life, is a failed human being, controlling, egotistical and entirely deserving of the criticisms now hurled in his direction but there is a danger in focusing on Saatchi’s emergence as poster boy for the shameful thugs that perpetrate these crimes. We must ensure we remain focused on the behaviour and not any one individual.
Domestic violence will end where it begins… with us.
It’s time to Man up.