Some may envisage domestic abuse to be exclusive to the domain of lower income areas, lack of education or unhappy relationships. This is is not the case. It spans all classes, educational backgrounds, races, religions, income levels. No one is immune.
Domestic abuse is not just physical violence. It is a form of control that can be financial, emotional or pyschological as well. It is not just husbands; it can be wives, other relatives or carers. Children can be victims as well. It does not only happen in the home. No one is immune.
This week there has been a very public reminder that no woman is immune to the possibility of violence. My heart goes out to Nigella Lawson. We do not know how long she has had to suffer under the control of her husband. We do not know the circumstances that set off such a public display of violence and humiliation. To compound the pain, onlookers stood by and did nothing. Photographs were taken but the police were not called. Photos were sold, (most likely) profiting on the pain and reinforcing the victim's fear that no one can be trusted.
Many turn a blind eye. They do not want to interfere. They do not want to become involved. Maybe the problem will go away? No one should have to live in fear. Open your eyes. Be brave. If you see someone who may be in pain or fear, do not walk away.
Then a careless radio presenter confronts Nigella Lawson, accusing her of ignoring the domestic abuse that she has been a victim of! Calling out a victim, demanding that she make a stand on domestic violence and effectively threatening to take away her livelihood if she did not do so, is bullying. It is easy to pontificate on twitter and the internet but until you have experienced domestic abuse, you cannot understand the myriad of pressures involved. It is not as easy as 'just reporting it'. ... Shame on you Ms Dunleavy!
(Another example of internet bullying made so much easier when face to face interaction is denied.)
There are many reasons why victims may not seek help. Victims of domestic abuse can have a difficult time admitting they are victims. They may feel embarressed, ashamed, alone; that they cannot trust anyone. It is easy for those who have not suffered from domestic abuse to judge. How can they understand the complicated emotional mess that is associated with being controlled. It can be overwhelming, isolating and never-ending. No one should be judged. No victim should have to feel ashamed.
If someone had recognised the signs of domestic abuse, if someone had shown support, if someone had spoken up, then I would not have been the victim of domestic violence as a child and of insidious domestic emotional abuse as a young adult. I survived. I pray that Nigella Lawson will find peace.
Fight domestic violence. Fight bullying. NEVER shame the victim.