Is Chef Nigella Lawson Another Abused Wife? Charles Saatchi Calls Throat Choke Hold 'A Playful Tiff'

The face of domestic violence took a most public turn this weekend, as Britain’s billionaire art dealer and advertising executive, 70-year-old Charles Saatchi was observed with his hands around the throat of wife and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. Scotland Yard seeks “to establish the facts” of an apparently violent argument at the well-known Scott’s seafood restaurant in London’s Mayfair neighborhood eight days earlier.

Just A ‘Playful Tiff”?

As friends and pundits weigh in on the now infamous photos of Charles Saatchi with his hands around the throat of his wife Nigella Lawson, a classic picture of domestic violence begins to emerge. For those who caution against a rush to judgement in the case, AOC asks: Under what circumstances would it be appropriate that a man is choking his wife in private or in public?

For women living as victims of domestic violence, the focus of this case should not be the journalistic ethics of London’s Sunday people or the paparrazi photographer JEAN-Paul who took the images. Only men like Roy Greenslade focus on this aspect of the Lawson-Saatchi situation.

Charles Saatchi has issued a statement to the Evening Standard, calling the incident that occurred a week ago “a playful tiff”.

Writes Tom Sykes: “The distressing incident, which reportedly left Nigella in tears, lends credence to those who say that the increasingly reclusive Saatchi, who recently turned 70, has become violently jealous of his wife’s successful career. Having conquered the U.K. with her TV shows and cookery books, Nigella has now turned her attention to the U.S., where her appearance as a judge on ABC’s The Taste received positive reviews.”

An accomplished chef for 15 years, Nigella Lawson has experienced plenty of tragedy in her life. Her mother died of liver cancer at the age of 49. Nigella’s sister Thomasina died of breast cancer in 1993 at age 32, while her first husband, the journalist John Diamond, died of throat cancer in 2001.

It’s reported that Nigella Lawson has struggled with questions of identity and self-worth, qualities that frequently define victims of spousal abuse who remain in the marriage. “I am so pathetic I even crave the approval of my toothbrush,” Nigella told the Financial Times magazine.

Nigella Lawson Leaves Home

Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi leaving Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair a week ago, after the terrible row occurred. Image By JEAN-Paul

Unlike Nigella Lawson, I left my husband the night he had his hands on my throat, pounding my head against the floor. Good friends were with us when he turned on me, annoyed that I overcooked the brussel sprouts. I was totally embarrassed over his attempts to ruin dinner, and I told him that in the future, he could cook his own brussel sprouts. The result of my response was a violent physical attack that would have been far worse, if our friends hadn’t been present. They stayed with us, until I left the house to seek safety with another friend of mine and her husband.

Just as Nigella Lawson’s husband Charles Saatchi has a history of outbursts and is known for his ‘mercurial’ personality, my husband — not nearly as successful — was known for the same trait. Angry that I was having drinks with coworkers one evening, he stood waiting at the window of our Brooklyn brownstone for me to come home. Furious that it was now 7:30pm and I was out enjoying myself, he slammed down the open window so hard, that the glass shattered.

Anna Maxted writes:Nigella Lawson, handsome, clever, rich, who seems to unite some of the best blessings of existence, isn’t the sort of woman we expect to get hit by her husband. And yet, here we are, gawking at photographs which apparently show Charles Saatchi with his hands around our heroine’s throat, and her obvious, chilling terror.”

It’s very difficult to analyze these images as a ‘playful tiff’. The full outcome of Nigella Lawson’s confrontation with Charles Saatchi will unfold in the coming days.