Note: This post was inspired by “Silence and Violence”, a TEDx talk by Jackson Katz, Ph. D, in which he drew attention to a compelling feminist analysis of how society often uses language to diminish the importance of men’s violence against women. Very helpfully shared on Twitter by @RoughEstateDate, it is excellent viewing, and well worth nineteen minutes of your time.
Charles Saatchi has accepted a caution for his conduct in a London restaurant, where a photographer took pictures of him holding his wife Nigella Lawson by the throat. His acceptance of caution was an admission that he had committed assault. He also issued a statement which, though brief, I found of particular interest. It read as follows:
“Although Nigella made no complaint, I volunteered to go to Charing Cross station and take a police caution after a discussion with my lawyer because I thought it was better than the alternative of this hanging over all of us for months.”
Though a short piece of text, I think that it contains a great deal of interesting detail, and I will swiftly take its two elements in turn.
- “Although Nigella made no complaint” – The implication here is that the incident was not of sufficient seriousness for his own wife to register it formally with police. However, his own acceptance of a caution contradicts that implication. By coming forward in this way, he has tacitly acknowledged the grave nature of his actions.
- “I volunteered to go to Charing Cross station and take a police caution…because I thought it was better than the alternative of this hanging over all of us for months.” – This is framed as if an act of altruism, and not limitation of damage to his own reputation. The language here – “hanging over us [my italics] – ” is of note. He could just as easily be talking about an accusation levelled against his family as a whole. However, there is nothing hanging over him and his wife: it is his act which led to the caution, and she is not complicit in it. There is nothing hanging over her except public sympathy; on the other hand, what hangs over him is the finger of guilt and reproach. In using this language, he seems to be trying to sidle out of an uncomfortable spotlight.
Nowhere in this statement is there an expression of regret. Perhaps this is something that he feels that he should express in private, and is not a subject for public discussion. In any event, his words give the impression of someone who is not wholly contrite, but who rather is trying to deflect attention from the very serious nature of what he did.