How the Daily Mirror reported the story of Charles Saatchi allegedly choking wife celebrity chef Nigella Lawson.

How the Daily Mirror reported the story of Charles Saatchi allegedly choking wife celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. Photo: Supplied

So, I won’t be writing about menugate or Howard Sattler or Piers Akerman.

I wanted to – but in the mass of misogyny in the last week, those three items are small fry. I want to talk about something much more significant.

I want to talk about Charles Saatchi.

Big news: Nigella is grabbed.

How Sunday People reported the story of Charles Saatchi choking Nigella Lawson Photo: Sunday People front page (Courtesy Anorak.co.uk)

Not because of the captivating Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. Mind you, just going in through those front doors makes you feel as if you know everything about contemporary British art; and makes you feel so grateful for Saatchi’s very existence, the poster boy of British philanthropy.

What a generous man. What a gift to give the British public, indeed, anyone who ever visits the several storeyed building in the heart of cold Britannia. How kind. How cool. How debonair.

Now perhaps, Britons will have other reasons to be grateful. Saatchi has just given a gift to the British consciousness.

Witnesses say that at lunch last week, Saatchi, 70, advertising executive, art collector and philanthropist allegedly attacked his wife Nigella Lawson. In public. In the kind of British restaurant where celebrities hang out; and so do press photographers.

It seems no one intervened. No one. Not the photographer [pictures were published in Sunday People on Sunday], not others in the restaurant.

And the conversation since has been all about Nigella. And barely a word about her alleged attacker.
Of course, for the rest of us, we think the public sympathy for Nigella is what’s good. It will make her feel reassured. It will show her support.

But the facts of the matter are this. A middle-aged woman was in a public place when a man put his hands around her throat. We didn’t rescue her. We never do.

What is it about our society which says this is OK? That it’s normal?

Earlier this year, I wrote about a heavily pregnant woman going to the aid of another woman in a Majura car park.

Everyone else stood and watched, or filmed the incident.

So, it’s the bystander effect, where we stand and watch as women are violated. But in that story – and in this one, this one of darling, sainted, happy Nigella – no one questioned the alleged attacker. And that’s where we have to change.

I’m the same. I can smell her cinnamon from here. I can only imagine the comfort of her bosom and want to be with her.But the person who needs our attention is Charles Saatchi – and the topic which needs our complete focus is violence against women.

Which is why I can nearly forgive a Melbourne radio presenter, Dee Dee Dunleavy  who, in a blog for 3AW, wrote on Monday: ‘‘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.’’

When I read those words, I wanted to find DeeDee and show her images of violence against women. I was so mad, I wanted to shout.

Then I rang Libby Davies,  the chief executive of White Ribbon Australia, which launched its White Ribbon night campaign on Monday. She told me to settle down and that shouting would never fix anything.

She also said that the campaign to stop violence against women in Britain was not as successful as here in Australia; and that’s partly because the local campaign has put in place actions in schools and workplaces to stop men’s violence.

And Davies also said that Dunleavy was right in asking victims to stand up.

But victims can only do that with support. And we can’t support her by criticising her.

Dunleavy, we all feel that Nigella should be strong and powerful, because that’s how she comes across on television. But asking women to stand up against their violators is the hardest ask of all. Instead, we need to be calling for better support for victims.

And greater, swifter punishment for perpetrators.

Hard to help Nigella from here of course – but there are thousands of Nigellas, in Australia and all over the world. They can only stand up with our support.

And one way we can do that is to intervene when we see it happening in front of us. Call the police. Call an ambulance. Don’t take anyone on, one-on-one, because it is hard to predict whether you can preserve your own safety. Be an active bystander, White Ribbon style. An active bystander speaks out, intervenes, says stop.

We can’t expect Nigella Lawson to be the poster woman for those who stand up to violence. She may be famous – but that won’t protect you from bad relationships, from violence, from fear. She fears what we fear, she cries as we cry.

We all understand that  most men are good men and they speak out, whether it is to help White Ribbon or as private individuals.

Instead, we all need call out Charles Saatchi. And others like him.

Do it now. He may have been a poster boy for art and culture. But now he represents something much much worse.

Follow me on Twitter @jennaprice or email jenna_p@bigpond.net.au