God Bless Charles Saatchi!

by Annie Kaszina on June 21, 2013

For readers outside the UK, it may be perfectly possible not to know who Charles Saatchi is. But emotionally abused women everywhere have cause to be thankful to him. 

Not because he has made a stand against domestic violence. 

Anything but. 

Charles Saatchi has given the world an appalling display of domestic violence.  TWEET THIS 

As one of the founders of the massively successful UK advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, you would have thought the wealthy, cultured Charles would have known better than to present himself so badly in a public place. 

Saatchi grabs NigellasmallInstead, in the course of a disagreement with his wife, he reached across a restaurant table and grabbed her by the throat, as per this picture, seemingly without thought to the people and smart phones all around. 

His wife is a national treasure, the beautiful, sexy, and yet wholesome, food writer/chef Nigella Lawson. 

Nigella is public property. We Brits love her. She is, quite simply, “our Nigella”. 

Which means that for all of us in the UK it’s personal. We’re not going to dismiss the image of Saatchi grabbing his wife by the throat. Nigella is not young – and, in the public opinion, possibly naive/silly like Rihanna – she is 53. She’s successful, talented, and beautiful. She is a middle class, middle aged icon. We don’t like our icons attacked. 

Worse – if it could get much worse – Saatchi tried to dismiss the episode as a ‘playful tiff’. 

You have to wonder what planet someone would have had to come off to imagine that wrapping their hand round someone else’s windpipe would count as ‘playful’. Besides, if that is ‘playful’, what qualifies as ‘threatening’ on Planet Saatchi? 

Then there is the little fact of the profound humiliation he visited on her in a public place. 

Anyone who has ever been in an emotionally abusive relationship will know that you try, for the longest time, to hide the awful truth from the world. The only thing worse than being repeatedly humiliated in private, is being publicly humuliated. Almost the last remaining dignity is to avoid having the World witness that humiliation. 

A partner’s contemptuous behavior – and Saatchi’s behavior can only be seen as contemptuous of his wife, and her well-being – is a hard thing to bear. A public statement, which seems to invite the world to collude with the abuser, is even harder to deal with. 

Let’s face it, more often than not, onlookers withhold sympathy from the victim. They don’t like looking at the dark, disturbing side of human emotions, and so they blame the victim for being spineless, or stupid, or blind. 

(It’s worth noting, in this context, that Saatchi’s book, “Be The Worst You Can Be” was read, and reviewed as being ‘entertaining’. It’s only now that the sentiments he expressed are being seen as statements of… contempt for the societal constraints that discourage hostile and damaging behaviors.) 

Interestingly, Saatchi’s ex-wife has come to his defence. He was, she said, someone who was “hard work”, but not violent. In the past, Nigella said of him that he was “an Exploder”. Those of us who have lived with men like that can fill in the whole picture from those details alone. 

Let us never forget that emotional abuse IS domestic violence. Once and for all, let’s dispense with the silly, destructive notion that unless someone ends up physically bruised and battered it can’t be violence. If that were true, then why would be bother to have sanctions against people who make racist/sexist/otherwise offensive remarks? 

We Brits are not going to blame Nigella any time soon. Not only does she have our admiration – having inspired quite a lot of us to cook – but she had our sympathy vote long before any of this, having lost her first husband to cancer, lost her brother, and endured a destructive, abusive mother. 

So, Charles Saatchi, I’d like to thank you, on behalf of women who have suffered domestic violence everywhere. 

What you did was shameful, and appalling. 

It should never have happened. 

But with that one act you became the ‘poster boy’ for domestic violence, and for violent, abusive men everywhere. You showed the world that age, wealth, position, and social skills make little difference.  You stripped away the mask that most abusive men wear successfully, in public.  You revealed to the world a glimpse of the hell that can lurk behind every front door, up and down our country, but every other country as well. 

With one gesture, Charles Saatchi has become the poster boy for domestic violence. TWEET THIS

And you gave us a ‘victim’ who doesn’t fit any of the dismissive stereotypes commonly associated with domestic violence. 

I’m truly sorry that it happened to Nigella Lawson. Because I’m truly sorry that it happens to any woman – that is to say, an awful lot of women; at least 1 woman in 4 at one point in her life. 

Charles Saatchi, you’ve been responsible for ‘selling many, many things in the past. This time you have sold a compelling portrait of domestic violence to the nation. 

I thank you for that.

The nation needed to see that. 

Let’s hope it produces a lasting shift in public perceptions. 

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