Erasing the taboo – Domestic Violence

Following recent reports in the tabloids regarding Nigella Laswon being shamelessly attacked in public by husband Charles Saatchi. I feel it is appropriate to explore the issue of domestic violence, and why in the 21st century it is still a taboo subject.

Whilst some people are outraged at the tabloids for publicly ‘naming and shaming’ the celebrity couple involved, there is no denying that the whole media fiasco has brought a few issues to light. With the issue being that of domestic violence.

Although a tricky and taboo subject – like with anything else, the only way to reduce the stigma is to talk about it.

So lets start with what domestic abuse actually is. As put by the english oxford dictionary, domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship. Domestic abuse isn’t only limited to physical abuse, it also includes emotional and sexual abuse, controlling, intimidation and neglect.

Shockingly, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some stage during their lifetime, I believe that one of the key reasons that domestic violence is still as prevalent as it is today is due to the fact that we as a society are guilty of turning a blind eye and burying our heads in the sand, pretending that the problem is not as big as it is. Following on from the reports of Charles Saatchi’s violent outburst against his wife it is clear that people’s attitudes towards violence and abuse in general needs to change. The reports from the attack include lots of quotes and interviews from ‘shocked’ and ‘outraged’ onlookers and witnesses, yet not one person actually intervened nor made any attempt to confront Charles Saatchi. For this reason, i believe that the tabloids made the right choice by printing the story and naming Charles Saatchi as it gives a clear message that we do not tolerate violence or accept it within society regardless of status or wealth. By not printing the feature, I believe this would have made the tabloids as bad as those who stood by and did nothing.

Most people are reluctant to intervene in domestic affairs as they don’t want to be seen as meddling. The problem is, where and when do you draw the line. I believe that when someone is at risk or in immediate danger, then safety is paramount. And when someone’s wellbeing is jeopardized, then it is time to intervene. Especially where there are children involved.

In a statement released yesterday Charles Saatchi has claimed that the choke was ‘playfull’ and Nigellas tears were because she was upset about their argument rather than because she was hurt. The Mayfair restaurant involved has claimed that none of its staff were ‘aware’ of the incident and suddenly all witnesses have backtracked. We must not become complacent and we must not allow ourselves to turn a blind eye to violence and abuse.

Domestic abuse isn’t something that usually happens suddenly. It usually happens over a gradual build up over time. Like with any form of abuse more often than not, the victim has fallen prey to their abusive partners for so long that they don’t know how to escape. Their self-esteem and confidence is slowly hacked at over years of emotional and physical abuse to the point where they feel worthless and insignificant. Afraid to speak out from fear they will not be taken seriously. And fear that their partner will find out and possibly hurt them even more. After years of prolonged abuse the victim may even start to believe it is their own fault and in cases where there are children involved it becomes even more difficult for victims to flee their partner.

There are many possibilities as to why a person is violent or abusive in a relationship, with substance abuse being responsible for 29% of domestic abuse cases, with 21% being alcohol related and 8% under the influence of illicit drugs.

The second problem lies within culture. Every culture has different values and ideas of what is and isn’t acceptable when regarding relationships and domestic affairs. Domestic abuse stems from the abuser trying to assert dominance and power over their victim. Unfortunately in some cultures it is commonplace from men to be seen as superior to women and rank more importance and priority. Some cultures feel it is a womans duty to serve a man. There are still many cultures where women are not seen as equal. Violence is the first sign that the person being violent has lost control, and so they resort to violence as a way of reinforcing integrity and dominance.

Which leads me on to my third point being that of social norms and acceptance. If some cultures are accepting and tolerant towards violence as a means of discipline and control then this behaviour is learned from childhood and is likely to be repeated in adulthood. Part of growing up is learning right from wrong, the good from the bad and if there is no clear repercussions for certain behaviours then there is no deterrent from repeating this behaviour.

In my opinion, I believe that Socio-economic background also plays a huge part in regards to domestic abuse. Domestic abuse isn’t something exclusive to those from poorer backgrounds. Often those with unlimited wealth and fame are in a position of power where there are no limits to what their money can buy. Wealth is often associated with power. And power is often used to assert dominance with violence sometimes used as a reinforcement. People in such a position often know no boundaries and are very rarely told no. Wealthy people tend to keep private matters secret especially matters which could reflect badly upon them or bring shame or disrepute to their name. Wealthy families are no more immune to domestic problems than any other social group, the only difference is that the rich are better at covering up and staying quiet with regards to anything that could jeopardize their integrity or ruin the way they are perceived.

I can understand people’s anger at the tabloids for printing such vivid pictures, of the Nigella attack. It is never pleasant seeing images of anyone being assaulted but hopefully now this will not only encourage Nigella to speak out, and stand up against her violent husband, but hopefully this will also encourage other victims of domestic abuse to seek help and also realise that they are not alone.

Anyone can find themselves the victim of abuse regardless of social background, gender or age – which is why it is important that the right help is available and easily accessible to those who need it.

As with any issue, I strongly believe that prevention is better than cure. A lot of people remain ignorant to the issue of domestic violence due to lack of understanding and knowledge. Regardless of race, religion and gender I believe that education is key to tackling the root of the problem. If we can teach our kids from an early age the importance of equality, respect and discipline then I have no doubt that we will see a decline in the number of domestic abuse related incidents and be able to work towards a safer and violence free future for everyone.

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