Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Domestic Violence victims still need to be perfect to be deemed “Real” victims

So the discovery that Nigella Lawson may not a perfect victim and therefore not a victim at all, has at last been made.  Allison Pearson in the Telegraph today (although one wonders why it wasn’t in the Mail, what with it being very Daily Mailish an’ all) declares gravely that:

“if the Grillo sisters turn out to be telling the truth… then Charles Saatchi may turn out to be the victim of an injustice”.

What injustice can this be?  Allison doesn’t say.  She only implies it. I presume she means the injustice of being thought to be an abusive man, because his wife is not the perfect victim and therefore he couldn’t have been an abuser, could he?  Here's the link to the article: Victim Blaming piece by Allison Pearson

That I think, is the confused thinking behind this vicious piece of victim-blaming.  You would think, wouldn’t you, that an educated woman with a column in a broadsheet, would have better critical thinking skills than this, but when it comes to male violence against women, many people’s critical thinking skills go missing completely.  Suddenly they’re straight back into the Madonna/ Whore dichotomy where if a woman doesn’t fit the Madonna stereotype then she must be the Whore and as such, can be justly blamed for whichever bit of male violence has come her way.

Pearson repeats the allegations from the Grillo trial, that Saatchi considered his wife “an habitual criminal”, which is a bit of a PR gaffe from Saatchi - imagine, another one from this advertising genius - given that a substantial group in the population when they hear that term, instantly picture Norman Stanley Fletcher from Porridge and think Nigella must be rather genial and fun.  At the same time, the image of Saatchi’s Mr McKay to Nigella’s Fletch has a terribly unfortunate cultural resonance for Strangler Saatchi, because we all enjoyed watching Fletch get the better of McKay week after week. No wonder twitter echoes to the cry of “we’d all be on narcotics if we were married to Saatchi!”

But Pearson may not have watched Porridge. “What if this villain of the piece was actually trying to save his destructive wife from herself?” she asks plaintively.  By strangling her?  Is that how you save someone from themself?

“What if Saatchi lamely excusing the fight outside Scott’s as “a playful tiff” was not trying to protect his own reputation, but Nigella’s? Physical violence is never excusable, but what if a frustrated Charles was shaking his wife and saying: “Wake up, woman! Look what you’re doing to yourself and our family”?  she goes on.

This is such classic victim-blaming that I hardly need to critique it, but oh well, I’ve started now, so: the “Physical violence is never excusable, but” excuse, followed by the excuse, means that actually, you believe that physical violence is sometimes excusable.  If you actually believed that physical violence is never excusable, you wouldn’t propose that shaking someone and strangling them, was an excusable desperate attempt to get someone to “wake up”.

“What if that tweak on her nose was not aggressive and patronising, as we all supposed, but a dig at her cocaine habit?” Well, I know men are supposed to be bad at multi-tasking, but I’ve never bought that stereotype, so I’d just like to point out that it’s possible to have been both.

“What if Nigella’s tears, as she fled the restaurant, were not of fear, but guilt?”  What if they were?  Does that excuse Strangler Saatchi’s violence?  People with critical thinking skills who are not prepared to defend domestic violence for any excuse, would say no.  People who think that they are not in favour of Domestic Violence but when confronted with a real taste of it are, leave the question hanging in the air with the implication that yes, indeed, it does excuse his violence.  No real victim of DV is supposed to have any guilt, about anything at all - like the Immaculate Conception, she’s got to be spotless.  In other words, she’s got to be either a child or someone who has never done anything wrong in her life ever.

Which leaves adult women in the position of never being allowed to be real victims of DV, because none of us is guiltless. None of us would ever be the perfect victim.  All of us have done things in our lives which could be held to be either illegal, immoral or fattening and so if a man decides to attack us, the very fact that we have done those things will absolve our attacker from guilt.  Which is really, really good news for men who go in for domestic violence. In order for a man to be held guilty of domestic violence, his female victim has to be guiltless of anything else.  If she isn’t, then it’s OK for him to strangle her.  That’s the message Allison Pearson in the Telegraph is sending us today.

This post was first published here - thanks to the author for permission to cross post.

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