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Is There Ever An Excuse For Being Violent Towards Your Partner?

21/03/2012 13:47 | Updated 22 May 2015

Remember the theme tune to 80s TV show Minder?

Sung by Dennis Waterman, who also starred in the show, it went something like, "I could be so good for you, love you like you want me to. I'll do anything for you... I'll be so good for you."

Back in the days when Minder was one of the biggest shows on TV, Dennis Waterman was married to Polish-born actress Rula Lenska. They met on the the set of the show in 1982 and divorced in 1998, after more than ten years of marriage. When they split she said that he had, on occasion, been violent towards her - a claim which he then denied.

dennis-waterman-rula-lenskaDennis Waterman with Rula Lenska at the Baftas in 1985. Photo: Getty Images

But now it turns out that Dennis wasn't all that good for Rula after all - and he's made the surprising decision to admit during a TV interview for Piers Morgan's Life Stories that he "slapped and punched" her twice. He also indicated that she provoked him.

He said: "She certainly wasn't a beaten wife, she was hit and that's different."

He added: "I've never done it before or since. But if a woman is a bit of a power freak and determined to put you down, and if you're not bright enough to do it with words, it can happen. And it did happen in my case."

Although Dennis insisted that he was "very, very ashamed" of his actions, he added that "it's not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her" and admitted that his attitude towards women is "quite Victorian".

In other words, Dennis wants to make sure that we know he's not a 'wife beater' - just an everyday bloke who gave his mouthy wife a wallop.

The domestic violence charity Refuge has - understandably - accused the actor of trivialising domestic violence and Sandra Horley, the chief executive of the charity, has issued a statement saying: "It doesn't matter whether he hit her once, twice or a dozen times - no man is entitled to hit his wife and domestic violence is never acceptable. It is against the law. No one can make their partner hit them."

It's hard to imagine what Waterman hoped to gain from his admission and it's little wonder that his spokesperson has yet to comment, telling me that they're not yet sure what their line is going to be on this.

Had Dennis admitted that he'd been violent in the past, appeared suitably contrite and given a clear indication that his attitude and behaviour have changed, maybe it would be a different story.

But I doubt that even a groveling public apology and a sizable donation to a domestic violence charity could help to rehabilitate his public image.

For Dennis has inadvertently painted a very vivid picture of a man who felt so threatened by his partner that he tried to control her in the only way he could - via his fists.

His off-the-cuff admission that he "must have punched her one time 'cause she had a black eye", suggests that he still hasn't quite taken responsibility for his actions.

And his suggestion that she was in some way 'asking for it' reveals that he hasn't yet worked out that domestic violence is absolutely indefensible.

Yes, Dennis is 64 - and he grew up at a time when domestic violence wasn't talked about, and was more easily overlooked and excused.

But these days most people take a dim view of violence, of any kind.

It's not okay to punch someone who you get into an argument with in the pub, and it's not okay to hit the person (male or female) that you're supposed to love. Both are against the law, and Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) - which is assault that leaves the victim with scratches or bruises - carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

If it happens once, and you and your partner want to make sure it doesn't happen again, then you seek professional help, to make extra sure. And you don't make matters worse by making lame excuses.

We may never know what prompted Dennis Waterman to confess to punching his former wife and we can only hope that his outdated - not to mention delusional - belief that she was somehow to blame doesn't enable other perpetrators of domestic violence to justify their behaviour - either to themselves of their victims.

After all, it has taken decades for domestic violence to be viewed as a crime, rather than just a 'private dispute' that should be sorted out behind closed doors.

But at least his admission will benefit one person: Rula Lenska.

For now that her ex-husband has admitted to being free with his fists, people will no longer question whether she was just making it up - a common problem faced by victims of domestic violence, and the reason why so many women fear that, even if they ask for help, they won't be taken seriously.

Rula's friend, Denise Welch, said on ITV's Loose Women: "I have spoken to her... and she knew that we were going to discuss it. All that she wants to say is that she is glad that he's eventually admitted it because, several years ago, when the marriage broke up and she first came out and made these allegations, she has since then been perceived as a liar by many quarters, some in the press and some from other people. So she is relieved that he's eventually said it."

Whether Dennis and the current - and fourth - Mrs Waterman, Pam Flint, share her sense of relief, remains to be seen...

By: Ceri Roberts

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