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Unity calls as Nigella can't stand alone

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.

How Sunday People reported the story of Charles Saatchi choking Nigella Lawson

How Sunday People reported the story of Charles Saatchi choking Nigella Lawson Photo: Sunday People front page (Courtesy

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

9 comments so far

  • Great article Jenna.
    The focus should rightly be on perpetrators and the absence of intervention is greatly concerning. But I disagree that we should be 'asking' victims to stand up. What does that mean anyway? Stand up? How do we know she isn't standing up? It presupposes a knowledge of the situation that we don't have - nor should we - it is her personal relationship.
    We should not be asking anything of victims, we have no right to. It is theirchoice and there should be no expectation of the way they should behave. Those 'expectations' are a major part of the problem in the response to DV. Support? Yes. Intervene and assist? Absolutely. Encourage them to stay safe? A must. But encouraging them to adopt a certain position that accords with what we imagine we might do or what we want them to do? No. That is just another form of manipulation and control - feelings they are oftern intimately familar with.

    Date and time
    June 17, 2013, 4:40PM
    • Plenty of people who intervene in violent acts end up getting beaten or stabbed. I'm not prepared to die to potentially "save" someone. That's the job of the (armed) police.

      As for assault, only when victims choose to press charges against their attacker can justice be done. Legal 101.

      Devil's Advocate
      South of Heaven
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 5:06PM
      • Devils Advocate - doesn't matter, someone should have stood up and said/done something other than taking pictures. Bullies only bully if they can get away with it. Even if the lady was at fault for the argument/disagreement, the reaction is not acceptable.

        Date and time
        June 17, 2013, 7:04PM
      • Likely lad- you'd die for it, or cop a beating? And bullies only get away with it if their victims don't press charges.

        Date and time
        June 17, 2013, 7:20PM
    • Bit of a mixed message here...Don't take anyone on one on one, but speak out , intervene? The trouble is just about any action will turn the focus towards the person "taking action" .In addition there are other uncertainties in the situation... Just exactly what am I seeing? Am I strong enough if it gets physical? Condemnation of all bystanders in such a situation is simplistic. However I hope I could do the right thing.

      the elder
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 5:56PM
      • @Devil's Advocate - where does Jenna say you should intervene? There are bystander tactics that can be used, look at for some safe but very effective techniques. Are you happy to sit by and let a person be attacked while you do NOTHING? Shame on you and shame on anybody who was nearby while Nigella was attacked, including the photographer.

        Jenna - great article. It makes such a difference to victims to know that they have support, and absolutely no help whatsoever when they're told they should have fixed the situation themselves. Dee Dee Dunleavy should resign.

        Date and time
        June 17, 2013, 6:03PM
        • "It seems no one intervened"
          "And one way we can do that is to intervene when we see it happening in front of us"
          But then intervention can be passive, apparently. Calling police, recording details, etc. Maybe even taking a photo, visual proof, would be a great way of intervening? I'd be happy to do all that, and would. But I wouldn't jump in between a psychopath and his target. That is all. Call me crazy.

          Date and time
          June 17, 2013, 7:30PM
      • 1. Men need to take ownership of their action. So its violence by MEN. Include them in the call out.

        2. Bystanders need the mental permission to act. As a group is best. Safely even better.
        So public information on tactics. Make noise, be an active witness, call police, gather others, record, intervene, talking down, shouting down. Recognise the symbols of attack.

        3. People are wary of getting involved in an domestic dispute. Public information there as to what to do when?

        4. People will use a "domestic dispute" to excuse themselves from acting. Public information to have the victim identify the attacker as unknown can help enormously. "I do not know this man" is a great call if it can be made.

        5 Men can be trained in the art of the right thing to say to intervene. "Excuse me do you know this man?".

        Not all relevant to this story I know, so if you have others to add, please continue.

        South Melbourne
        Date and time
        June 17, 2013, 6:26PM
        • I really Love Nigella a lot.I thought she was the happiest most adorable lady on earth.The kiss to her hubby was a sign of love to the hatred he has being showing to her.Hatred can be only defeated by Love.Nigella has to take some action and put him in a rehabilitation center.He definitely needs some psychological counseling too coz her food is incredibly tasty.Take care Nigella We Love you.

          Date and time
          June 17, 2013, 6:32PM

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