I have so many things I want to say right now, but I decided to talk about domestic violence, not because what I have to say is especially interesting, but because I think it is urgent.
The other day I happened upon an article about a British celebrity who was seen being physically abused by her wealthy, art collector husband. The article, which appeared on The Guardian‘s website ended in the following way:
Whatever Lawson decides to do next is her business alone, because she is not the “Nigella Lawson” image she helped to promote: she is a woman going through something that 25% of all women will endure. It turned out Lawson was more right than she knew: her home life was “normal”, albeit probably not in the way she meant.
I’m pretty sure that the writer didn’t intend to normalize spousal abuse. She probably thought it was a clever way to end the article because, according to the writer, Lawson had projected an image of having the perfect family. Addressing this image, Lawson claimed to be much more “normal” than people knew.
This ending bothered me because it put me in mind of a cousin who was in a physically abusive marriage. Years later she said to me, “At the time, I thought it was normal. Now, I realize that it isn’t normal for husbands to hit wives.” It took a close relationship with another cousin with whom she lived for a time when she was between jobs and seeing her much healthier marriage with a husband who treated her with respect and would never dream of hitting her. In fact, this conversation took place shortly after my father passed away and was in reference to the fact that she perceived him as a decent man, which he was.
People often wonder why people stay in abusive relationship. Unfortunately, for some of them, it’s because they’ve never seen a healthy relationship and it’s what they think is normal. The writer, in her attempt to be clever, has given a very dangerous message. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, let them know that it’s not “normal.”
[Edit] Although The Guardian article talked specifically about “women”, I used the gender neutral term “spousal abuse” because I knew that domestic violence is not exclusive male-on-female.