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Friday, June 21, 2013


This week cooking celebrity Nigella Lawson was photographed in a very nice restaurant with her husband’s hands on her neck.  As in strangling her.  He later came out publicly to say it was a “playful tiff“. 
Very distressing, indeed.
The violence was awful.  Knowing that if in public he feels comfortable doing that what goes on behind closed doors?  It bothers me that people took photos instead of helping her, though the event probably happened in just a matter of moments.  Sometimes when you see something like that happening your brain doesn't even register it right away.  And I am sure people sensed complex emotions.  Pain, discomfort, fear and embarrassment. 
But it's time to really talk about domestic violence.  We as a culture have to stop accepting people being treated as property.

It brought back memories of being a young fourth-grade child sitting in a classroom.  Outside the window a young man and young woman walking down from the high school; he is striding ahead and she is trailing behind him; they are arguing loudly.  So loud in fact that the whole class and teacher have turned to look outside. 
And the guy suddenly turns around and punches her in the face; hard.  Hard enough that she crumples to the ground.
My teacher slowly walked over to the windows – still talking, still teaching – and pulls the window blinds down, one by one.  Like it never happened.

Fast forward and I am a young married 22-year old working at a law firm as a legal secretary.   I get a cat – my first one!  And when it gets cornered by the neighbor’s dog I swoop in to pick it up (do NOT ever do that, okay?!) – and she turns and claws me right down the face.  Torn skin on my nose, scratches around my eye, down my face.  Pretty messed up.
The next day at work all the women immediately ask what happened; but not the men.  It isn’t until lunchtime when one of the guys asks me into his office and pulls the door shut and says “honey, what happened to your face?” 

Later that afternoon I asked the attorney I did the most work for:  “Why haven’t you asked me what happened to my face.”  “Well,” he said with a shrug, “I figured your husband did it to you.” 

I have had someone I trusted put their hands around my neck and start to squeeze.  Let me tell you, it’s scary as hell.
In another relationship it was words; because he knew I would leave in a minute if he touched me.  So it was insults and threats and anger.  I remember so many times just wishing he would do the things he threatened to do so I would have a “good” reason to leave.

Eventually I realized that verbal cruelty was a “good “reason, too.
There are things worse than being hit or hurt; Kriyanandaji says cut a person with a knife and the skin heals; cut a person with your tongue and they may never.  Words can terrorize and dehumanize as much or more than many actions.

Nigella, I am not in your shoes and I don't judge your decisions; perhaps you wish no one had seen what happened that day or maybe you are tremendously grateful.  But maybe; just maybe; you opened up the subject for discussion.  Placed our social norms up for scrutiny.  And made people like me more willing to shine a light into the dark places of the soul.



  1. This post struck a chord with me as I was (briefly, thank goodness) in a pretty bad relationship in college with an abusive man who enjoyed berating me and roughing me up. At first I thought I deserved it. When I saw bruises on my arms I thought to myself, "gosh, I need to eat more bananas. My potassium level must be low." It's amazing what denial can do, and how manipulating sick and twisted people can be. Luckily I got out. Other girls are not so lucky--take Yeardley Love (UVA Lax player who was murdered by her boyfriend), for example. Her mother has gone on to turn her tragedy into a positive movement to bring awareness to relationship violence through her nonprofit organization.
    We need to talk to our girls about this while they are young. As my husband said to Sophie two years ago, "It is NEVER ok for a boy to raise a hand to you in anger. Never." We will keep reminding her of this very obvious fact.

  2. PS: 45% of women murdered in domestic violence crimes have been previously choked by their partners. If someone puts his hands on your throat and chokes you, there is a very good chance you will be murdered if you stay with that person. Some states are trying to make choking someone a felony crime. It's too bad Nigella doesn't live in New Hampshire or Delaware. That bastard husband of hers would need a lawyer. If someone puts his hands on your throat, LEAVE. I agree that abusive words are just as powerful, but at least actions are clearly executed and punishable by the law. Words, not so much.


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