Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Dear Carol Sarler

[Added by Admin: This piece references this article in the Daily Mail. We're aware that the article is a few mohths old, but we thought this comment to Carol Sadler was too good not to share!]

Britain, it is a sad day indeed when the comments on the Daily Mail website are more agreeable than the actual written article.

But alas, that is indeed the case when you read an article published about the infamous Nigella and Saatchi case by good old Carol Sarler.
Carol Sarler. The name used to fill me with a boiling wave of frustration, which I normally had to calm with a few deep breaths and a nice cup of tea. A female journalist of the Daily Mail variety, she is a regular of the printed columns and scatters her words like pins all over the pages over the press.

In this article I am going to attempt to reach out to Carol and shake her journalistic tentacles- open my lovely feminist arms (sans armpit hair, but let’s not go there) and embrace her wholeheartedly and try to win her over with my charm and (as unpatronisingly as possible, dear,) give her a decent education on affairs of the female. Oh, and Carol, should you be reading, please do pop me a line- I’m a trainer on domestic abuse so I’d be more than happy to give you a private lesson.

Dear Carol Sarler,

I hold you in very high regard. As a member of the Great British Press, a journalist of the highest order, a town crier of the virtual lands, the information that you write in your column feeds the hungry minds of England today. I pour over your words and the knowledge about different issues I glean is as thick as the Lurpak butter spread on my toast (yes, I am middle class, soz!).

However, there is one article that I find concerning. A bit like using earl grey teabags instead of English breakfast ones, there is a bitter taste running through your article about Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi and I need to spit it out. Let’s chew the fat over it, Carol.

I want to start by commending you on certain parts of your article. As a journalist, some might say the speaker of the real truth, the fact hunter, the sleuth of the printed world; you do have a duty to the general public to report events in a factual way. The Lois Lane of the modern press, you have written your opinion on Charles and Nigella’s abusive relationship, and I commend you. But only for certain parts.

Carol, you have excelled yourself by some of your opinions in the article. You have made a stand and said that violence against women (and men, quite rightly so) is wrong and never acceptable. Carol, you even describe domestic abuse as ‘the horrors that happen behind closed doors’. Quite rightly so, Carol. This is an issue of indescribable torment, and you pick up correctly on the poisonous abuse that erodes women’s self esteem day by day- the drip drip drip of verbal, physical, sexual and psychological torture that often renders survivors of this abuse voiceless and bowed.

Carol, Saatchi’s behaviour is definitely ‘ugly’. Positively hideous. And indeed, had you or I married Saatchi (for me, unlikely, as I very much dislike his jowls) it is possible that we wouldn’t have found acceptable his level of ‘physicalness’. We do get on slightly dangerous ground there though, don’t we Carol, if we start getting into the whole victim blaming game and question Nigella’s choices. And I do agree with you, Carol, that there certainly are much more serious cases of domestic abuse out there which aren’t being given the attention they deserve due to funding cuts and lack of awareness by agencies (oh, that may have been my factual addition, sorry).

However Carol, I do feel that we need to linger a little longer on this little idea that you have in your article. Indeed, let’s think deeper about it. You dazzling argue two points in your article which I, ahem, would like to talk more about.

Firstly, Ms Sarler (I’m getting slightly more formal here, just thought I’d change it up a little!) you so sweetly described Charles Saatchi’s recent behaviour as ‘unpleasantness’, but felt that it shouldn’t go into the ‘domestic abuse basket’. I’d love to disregard this issue, as I did with yesterday’s knickers, but I feel that I can’t. Carol, I need to respectfully disagree with you on this point.

Carol (forgive me if I’m being overly friendly), Charles Saatchi does seem indeed a volatile man, as you put it yourself. However, the word volatile doesn’t seem to me quite right to describe him. Computers can be volatile; gosh, I think I even my Gran could be seen as a bit volatile after a few Christmas sherry’s and a liquor chocolate. But we’re talking about a man who put his hand around another woman’s throat, firstly. He tightened his fingers around the very space Nigella uses to breathe from- heck, we could take it even further and say symbolically he tried to cut off any voice or opinion she had left about whatever it was they were arguing about. Now Car, (I hope you don’t mind me calling you that), I’m going to be overly presumptuous about you and assume that you, as a journalist and often someone to speak her opinion, would also dislike having a person who supposedly cares about you wrap their fingers around your neck. It could be said that, by threatening to cut off Nigella’s voice and also her air supply, that he was trying to control how she was acting. Now, Carol, looking back on your article, you do say that he is controlling! Bravo there, Carol. That’s a bingo in my world. But you then go on to suggest that he is not an abuser, merely an ill-tempered old man. Controlling behaviours, whether or not there is any actual physical violence, is in my book a one-way ticket to perp-dom. Apologies for my colloquality, Carol, I forget that at times I speak in riddles. ‘Perp-dom’ is where all abusers live. It is a horrible place. I’ve heard Chris Brown is the Mayor and Mike Tyson the law enforcement. Women aren’t safe there Carol, I wouldn’t recommend a visit.

I digress- back to this issue of control. The desire to gain power and control over another, Carol, is the main feature of domestic abuse. It’s what black magic is to Voldemort, it’s the dark side to Darth Vader. It’s written on the inside of a stick of perpetrator rock. Control is not just about physical abuse, oh no. In fact, physical abuse although painful, isn’t normally the worst aspect of domestic abuse. It’s the control, Carol. The weight of the control that an abuser has over the colour of your pants, the way you walk, the amount of smiles you have in one day, the food you eat and the time you go to sleep. It’s the control over the people you talk to, wave at, even look at. Carol, it’s the suffocating weight of the power an abuser has over you that is the most damaging part.

Carol, we’ve discussed the throat grab and how that is controlling. But, if that’s not bad enough, to add insult to injury Mr Saatchi then tweaks her nose! A little tweak doesn’t hurt I hear you say. Indeed Carol. Indeed. A little tweak doesn’t hurt. Physically, Nigella will be fine. Her little bobbin nose will be ok, no lasting damage. But oh Carol, the psychological damage that little insignificant tweak could do is immense. Dismissive of her humanity is what I’d call it Carol, and no I wouldn’t say I’m a drama queen. The ‘tweak’ will be the latest metaphorical slap stacked onto a teetering pile of “I told you you were nothings”, “stupid bitch’s”’ and “you filthy slag’s”. By this point Carol, a punch or a slap would be more gratefully received than that awful ‘tweak’. A physical assault means you’re still alive. That psychological crushing just serves to further shatter an already eroded self esteem and smudges the last pieces of her reality even further.

Carol, I hope I’m getting my point across. I just wanted to keep you for one last mention. It’s just a small criticism really. It’s just about this ‘real victim’ thing you have going on. This ‘ideal victim’ scenario. I’m not quite sure what you mean by this Carol. You seem to be saying that because Nigella has money and a family she isn’t a ‘real victim’. She can’t possibly be a victim of domestic abuse with all that dosh- it’s a veritable force field around her, the 50p pieces fiercely flinging themselves at Saatchi the moment he tries to lay a hand on her. Perhaps it’s her celebrity status- the domestic goddess, her expensive kitchen instruments buzzing angrily should Saatchi start to get a bit huffy. Unfortunately, no, Carol. I hate to burst your antiquated idea of the ‘subjugated woman’, but regrettably there is no blueprint personality for a domestic abuse victim. There is no special test to get into this ‘exclusive’ club, no magic talisman to protect you against it, and certainly no scent or style that attracts abusive personalities. Sadly, Carol, it’s the luck of the draw. Or rather, the abusive bastards choice and responsibility to abuse you. Race, gender, class, intelligence and even age won’t protect you against this bad boy.

Well Carol, my lecture has reached its end. I hope you paid attention and found it useful. Please Carol, in the future refrain from writing about domestic abuse unless you understand it (and my offer is still open for that training!) and also from classifying victims, drawing a dirty line between ‘us and them’ that only serves to further isolate survivors in our society.

I usually like to style out any critiques I offer into a constructive sandwich. You know, the whole positive, negative, positive thing. So I’ll leave you with my final positive remark. Thank god you only wrote this in the Daily Mail, so at least one half of England knows its utter bullsh#t.

Best wishes,

Laura

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One thought on “Dear Carol Sarler

  • Hecuba says:

    Well said Laura and this needs to be repeated ad nauseum ‘ Race, gender, class, intelligence and even age won’t protect you against this bad boy.’

    Or to put another way – womens’ class/age/ethnicity/able bodiness/wealth will not protect them from men who believe they have innate right to treat women as mens’ personal private sexual property! Why? Because men know their male supremacist legal system upholds and supports mens’ pseudo right to dominate and oppress women. It is really that simple.