Refuge response to Charles Saatchi’s assault on Nigella Lawson

Refuge responds to breaking news on high profile domestic violence incident

Since Sunday 16th June, the headlines have been dominated by the story that advertising executive and art collector Charles Saatchi assaulted his wife Nigella Lawson in a public place. Refuge responded to the high level of media interest in this story as the news unfolded.

Sunday 16th June: photographs emerge of Charles Saatchi with his hands around his wife Nigella Lawson’s neck

 

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said:

“Domestic violence is a massive social problem in this country. Last year over one million women were abused. Every week in England and Wales, two women are killed by current or former partners.

“There are still so many myths and misconceptions surrounding this horrific crime. People often think that it only happens in poor families on council estates, but the truth is that domestic violence affects women of all ages, classes and backgrounds. Abusive men are just as likely to be lawyers, accountants and judges as they are cleaners or unemployed.

“Domestic violence is all about power and control. It is a pattern of behaviour that often involves extreme jealously and possessiveness, humiliation and intimidation. In my book, Power and Control: Why Charming Men Can Make Dangerous Lovers, I explain how abusive men are often charming one minute and terrifyingly aggressive the next. They often use financial and social abuse to control and isolate their partners.

“Research shows that the vast majority of domestic violence incidents are perpetrated by men against women. Many violent men are careful to hide their behaviour, only abusing their partners behind closed doors. But some commit violence in public, and, all too often, people turn a blind eye – allowing the abuse to continue.

“If anyone witnesses domestic violence, they should call the police. Domestic violence is a serious crime. It has no place in our so-called civilised society.”

Monday 17th June: Charles Saatchi tells the Evening Standard that he “held Nigella’s neck repeatedly” to make a point and that the incident was “a playful tiff”

 

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said:

“Perpetrators of domestic violence frequently try to minimise or deny their behaviour. They may try to blame their violence on things like alcohol or stress. Many blame the victim, saying that she provoked the abuse. But I have worked with survivors of domestic violence for over 35 years. I know that domestic violence is rarely a one-off. We should never ignore that first slap or shove, because over time it can escalate into much worse. In the most extreme cases, domestic violence can be fatal. In England and Wales, two women are killed every single week as a result of domestic violence. Research shows that strangulation is a key risk factor for domestic homicide. Last year, almost 50% of the women we supported had been strangled or choked by their abusers. But, in many cases, abusers don’t use physical violence at all. They may threaten or intimidate their partners with gestures or words. Women may try to appease their partners to defuse the situation and reduce the risk of violence. But the fact is, if a woman lives in a state of fear, changing her behaviour to avoid making her partner angry, she is being abused.”

Tuesday 18th June: the news breaks that after hours of questioning by the police, Charles Saatchi accepted a caution for assault

 

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said:

“Charles Saatchi was cautioned for assault which is a formal warning that stays on police records.  He has admitted the assault and if he does it again he could be charged and taken to court.  I cannot comment on why he was cautioned as that is a matter for the police.

“Cautions are sometimes used when a man admits to the assault and where there is no previous criminal record or history of violence.  However, Refuge has concerns about cautioning perpetrators of domestic violence as it does not act as an effective deterrent.  ACPO guidelines state that cautions are rarely appropriate in domestic abuse cases.  Research shows that domestic violence is rarely a one off.  We should never ignore that first slap or shove, because over time violence can escalate in frequency and severity.  In the most extreme cases, domestic violence can be fatal.  In England and Wales, two women are a week are killed by a current or former partner. On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before she calls the police for help. The police need to treat domestic violence as seriously as any other violent crime.  We must send out a strong public message that domestic violence will not be tolerated and is against the law.”

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said:

“If anything positive is to come of this incident, it is that there has been a massive public response which has generated a nationwide discussion about domestic violence. Following the publication of the photographs on Sunday, Refuge experienced a fourfold increase in visits to its website refuge.org.uk. Domestic violence is not a private matter; it is a huge social problem that affects the whole of society. Over a million women experienced domestic violence last year. Two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner. We need to send out a strong public message that domestic violence is a crime and is unacceptable. Anything that helps to bring domestic violence out of the shadows and increase awareness can only help to create change.”

Thursday 20th June: on a phone-in radio show, Nick Clegg responds to a question about Charles Saatchi’s assault on Nigella Lawson by saying, “I don’t know whether that was just a fleeting thing”

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said:

Earlier this week Charles Saatchi was cautioned for assaulting his wife in a public place. Yet in his initial response to this incident Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg questioned whether it was a ‘fleeting thing’.  In doing this he missed a vital opportunity to send a strong and consistent message that domestic violence in all its forms must not be tolerated.  Whilst he has subsequently condemned all forms of domestic violence, it is concerning that his initial comments seemed to minimise what was clearly an assault.  Domestic violence is not a private matter to be dealt with behind closed doors.  It is a huge social issue.  It is a serious violent crime that kills two women a week in England and Wales.  Last year over one million women experienced domestic violence.  It is incumbent upon all of us to challenge this serious crime.  That includes people who witness domestic violence on the street, teachers in schools, police officers responding to terrified women – and our political leaders.

“In order to eliminate violence against women, we need to provide and fund services for women and children escaping abuse.  We need to protect victims through robust legal measures and crucially we need to prevent abuse through education and public awareness.  And all of this needs strong leadership at the highest levels – above all from our political leaders.”

Thursday 20th June: the Evening Standard announces that they will not drop Charles Saatchi’s column from the paper, saying they did not want “to intrude into the complexities of a couple’s marriage”

 

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said: 

“I am staggered that so little has changed since the 1970s, when I started working with abused women and children. Back then, domestic violence was still regarded as a ‘private issue’, to be dealt with behind closed doors.

“Earlier this week Charles Saatchi received a police caution for assaulting his wife in a public place. Saatchi described the incident as a “playful tiff”. Today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg questioned whether it was a “fleeting thing”. The Evening Standard defended its decision to run Saatchi’s column by stating that it did not wish to become involved in the “complexities of a couple’s marriage”.

“The language that has been used to describe Saatchi’s violence is old-fashioned and dangerous. Domestic violence is not a “playful tiff”. It is not a “fleeting” moment. It is not a “complex” part of marital life. Domestic violence is a serious crime. It is a sustained pattern of behaviour that is designed to humiliate and control. At its extreme, domestic violence can kill. Two women die as a result of domestic violence every week in England and Wales.

“Something needs to change. In the absence of strong political leadership, the public need to step up. Don’t sit back and let this horrific crime go on around you. If you witness domestic violence in public, don’t turn a blind eye. If you suspect that a friend is being abused, ask if she is ok. Tell her she’s not alone – and that she’s not to blame. Help her to contact Refuge. Donate money to Refuge. Sign our petition calling for a public inquiry into the police and state response to victims of domestic violence: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/maria

“People power can make a difference. When women wanted the vote, they went out and protested. They changed the course of history. It’s time to do the same with domestic violence. It’s time to say, enough is enough.”