Disagreeing with Kristof

The New York Times published a column recently by Nicholas Kristof, whom I admire and respect, called “Modern Family Matters.”

He talks about the breakdown of the family and the rise in single-parent households. He also offers some potential solutions to this situation.

However, nowhere in the column does he discuss the impact of domestic violence on families, and how many of us are forced into single parenthood — and often poverty — as a result.

As I write about in my book, the effects of this violent marriage were long-lasting and devastating, to me and to my daughter. Not only that, the long-term effects of trauma are significant and definitely reduced my lifetime earning potential.

What do you think? How might we, as a society, address domestic violence so that it will stop being so pervasive?


A safety plan / DV awareness month

hotlineOctober is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I almost missed it!

If you are reading this blog and need a safe way to escape an abusive relationship, click here to go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s excellent resources for planning a safe exit.

That link goes to a page with several types of safe escape plans:

– If you’re still in the abusive situation

– If you have children

– If you have pets

– If you are pregnant

For every woman out there who is, or has been, in an abusive relationship, please know that I am thinking of you. You are the strongest women I know, and I love you with all my heart.

Nigella to divorce …

I just read an article that states Nigella Lawson is getting a divorce. The statement was issued by her husband, Charles Saatchi, and she has not said anything publicly about this situation at all.

I applaud her silence right now, despite the fact that her soon-to-be-ex husband says, basically, that he doesn’t like the advice she’s received to do so. Not to get into this too much, but his comments have generally been condescending and, frankly, horrid.

There is no adequate response she could make, no matter how hard he’s working to try to get her to say something. At times, his comments have appeared baiting to me.

Do we know for sure that this was a domestic violence situation? No, we don’t.

If she is someone who has survived domestic violence, though, I hope she eventually does speak publicly about it. To be blunt, we need some high-profile spokespeople to help others understand that DV affects rich and poor alike.

Meanwhile, I was remembering how my ex-husband kept trying to paint me as the person at fault, even though he was the one who abused me and sexually molested our daughter. He preyed on my vulnerabilities where she was concerned, made me cry during depositions by literally laughing out loud when I described the hurt he had caused her. As if to say, “This is a joke. She is a joke. Our daughter is a joke.”

It certainly worked in his favor. He was never prosecuted for any crimes, never paid any sort of penalty, got liberal visitation from the courts. It wasn’t until our daughter was 11 years old that she finally spoke about it again (I didn’t know the abuse had continued), and the court listened. FINALLY. Eleven years of abuse later.

That’s the problem, you see. No one is listening to victims, be they women like me or our children. All these years later — I moved out of that house 23 years ago — almost nothing has changed. Society’s perceptions of DV and child molestation remain the same. The court system still works against us, too.

At this point, I don’t know what it will take to create the sea change necessary to stop this societal disease. Because as much as we’d like to keep saying it’s a personal matter, domestic violence is a societal problem. Its effects are often hidden but real, and they’re dangerous. Lost opportunities. Lost jobs. Illness. Mental illness. Substance abuse. Death.

Nigella’s problems may or may not be domestic violence — we’ll never know unless she says something. But we need to continue the domestic violence conversation in the public sphere, whether she decides to be part of it, or not.

Nigella Lawson: domestic violence victim?

Nigella LawsonI’ve been a fan of Nigella Lawson’s for a few years now. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s made a name for herself via television cooking shows and cookbooks. She’s beautiful (she’s a former model and journalist) and has an earthy style that makes her someone to be envied, but also someone you can relate to. She cooks pretty simply, she doesn’t always measure, she accepts her mistakes and moves on — I like her style very much. I have one of her cookbooks and have enjoyed using it.

She comes from a very wealthy background, but also an abusive one. She’s written about her mother, who beat the children mercilessly. I haven’t seen anything about her father in that regard, but he was an important British politician.

Her sister died of cancer and her first husband died of cancer, leaving her with two young children (now 17 and 19, I believe). Shortly after her husband died, she got involved with Charles Saatchi, an art tycoon who is also extraordinarily wealthy. They married 10 years ago and live in a home worth around 12 million pounds — that’s more than $20 million.

She’s also described her current husband as “the exploder,” alluding to a very bad temper. ┬áHe has been quoted as saying he never eats her cooking and that it is “wasted” on him. Wow, what a horrible thing to say, considering who she is. I hate to say it, but that’s common among abusers, to bring down their partners publicly — especially where it would hurt them most, emotionally.

This week, photos surfaced of her husband with his hand on her throat, while the two had dinner at a restaurant — they were seated outside. Here is a link to the article with all the photos. Warning: the photos are disturbing.

Saatchi was cautioned by police, a warning that could lead to prosecution if he does anything like this again. He had tried to explain it away as a “playful tiff.”

I’m sorry, but she doesn’t look like she’s having any fun.

She reportedly left the family home with her 17-year-old son. I, for one, hope she never returns. No one should be treated that way, ever.

Can we always know what’s going on in a relationship? No.

Can we make a judgment based on a few photos? To that, I say yes. There is never an excuse for touching anyone like he is touching her. Especially your wife. In public or in private.

I suspect Nigella is a victim of domestic violence but, like many of us who have found ourselves in that situation, she doesn’t even quite realize it. Maybe this incident will help her in some way.

And I certainly hope she is not embarrassed by the photographs. HE is the one who should be embarrassed and ashamed. But if he’s like most abusers, he’ll continue to rationalize his behavior and make excuses.

We’ll never know what the whole story is unless she comes out and tells us. I do hope that she can take time to herself and make the best decision possible, whatever that is.