THE BLOG

Nigella and Charles: The Headlines Should Be a Collective Rejection of Domestic Violence

17/06/2013 00:18 BST | Updated 16/08/2013 10:12 BST

While public interest and a macabre voyeurism are evidently powerful drivers in the media's coverage of Charles Saatchi's apparent assault on Nigella Lawson - the headlines everywhere should be a collective rejection of domestic violence.

The photographs published in this weekend's Sunday People are deeply shocking - but much has been made of the merits and methods of reporting this awful scene - and indeed the way in which it came about. Sarah Ditum has rightly observed in the New Statesman the unfathomable inaction of onlookers who apparently pulled out their cameras rather than acting to report it, if not intervene. Perhaps they would argue that if this is raised as a police matter, then the images would be valuable evidence.

Needless to say, in the coverage itself it is somewhat difficult to discern the respective levels of prurience and concern.

But one of the most inspiring developments following this story has been the reaction of the majority of people: to promote organisations tackling domestic abuse such as Refuge, Women's Aid and the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV).

Twitter has been packed with people relating the Nigella story to unknown others who may, for the first time, realise that they are not alone in what they are experiencing. And these people are right: we shouldn't be gawping - we should be reacting in a productive way which seeks to highlight and tackle the many forms of domestic violence.

For many, the images are not simply shocking because it shows a celebrity engaged in a horrendous act against their celebrity spouse, it is the harrowing and repugnant unveiling of domestic violence in the public sphere.

One of the most disturbing aspects of domestic abuse is the intimacy of the space in which it takes place. In abusive relationships, what should be a close, loving and protective bond between two people is transformed into a uniquely personal and egregious form of intimidation and violence. It is something which no one should have to live with.

So it is perhaps for this reason that seeing such repulsive and intimidating behaviour - not only in public, but involving two public figures - has rendered this story so personally affecting for so many people.

If this incident can act as a mirror into households around the UK where women suffer in abusive relationships, and as a platform from which to reject domestic violence and provide support to its victims, then something positive will have come from the media's gaze on this awful act.

The Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline can be contacted on 0808 2000 247