Are we as a society supporting domestic violence and relationship abuse?
Pictures were released Monday night of the British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson being publicly assaulted by her husband. The photos show Lawson sitting with her husband, Charles Saatchi, at a restaurant in London, when he began to choke her, first with one hand, then with both.
Lawson left the scene tearful but was later seen back at the same restaurant with her husband less than a week later. She has yet to file a complaint with the police.
The public reaction has been swift and furious.
People were shocked that of all the photographers and diners present that night, no one intervened. Instead, Lawson endured what Saatchi described as a “playful tiff” and had to wait until he stormed off before she could escape.
Shortly after the pictures were made public, a radio DJ in Australia criticized Lawson for “cowering from a thug.” DJ Dunleavy then implied that women should boycott Lawson’s books:
“Nigella, like it or not, you’re a beacon for women from all walks of life. If you want us to buy your books and watch your shows on how to run our kitchens, then we need you to make a stand on domestic violence.”
The comments swirling are very reminiscent of the reaction to Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna.
Seven months after the brutal assault by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown, Rihanna told Dianne Sawyer in an interview, “When I realized that my selfish decision for love could result into some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part. I couldn’t be responsible … If Chris never hit me again, who’s to say that their boyfriend won’t … kill these girls.”
However, just this spring the two were publicly dating again, and Rihanna accompanied Brown to a probation hearing where it was discovered he had lied about completing his 180 days of community service — punishment for his assault on Rihanna.
Now jokes like: “If Chris Brown ever marries Rihanna and has children, you best believe there will be a reality TV show called 'How I Beat Your Mother,'" “Before you make jokes about Rihanna, realize that Chris Brown beat you to it,” and “Rihanna should take a few lessons from the Blackhawks, they never get beat,” are incredibly common.
When a female celebrity is the victim of domestic abuse, people demand that she be a role model, stand up for herself, and leave her partner. However, people are forgetting that it is difficult for victims to leave their abusers.
One in four American women have reported being the victim of intimate partner violence, and European women between the ages of 16 and 44 are more likely to be killed by domestic violence than by cancer or traffic accidents. And yet, it still took more than two years for Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act after it lapsed in 2011.
It seems as though society is less willing to help victims of abuse stand up for themselves and more willing to blame them for not doing it alone.