An open letter to Nigella Lawson

Posted December 6, 2013 by

Dear Nigella,

We wanted to send you this open letter to express our support and admiration for you at the end of a difficult week. We also want to let victims and survivors know that no one has to go through the experience of violence or abuse alone.

We have no way of knowing the details of your marriage – nor should we, it’s nobody’s business but yours – but as a service working with victims of domestic abuse, there are many things about your experiences during this week’s trial that were very familiar to us, particularly in light of the shocking photographs in the media this summer.

This week you described parts of your relationship as resembling ‘intimate terrorism’. This phrase perfectly captures the coercive and controlling behaviour exhibited by many perpetrators. For many victims of domestic abuse, violence is only one element of this control, which can also include limiting a partner’s social contact with others, extreme possessiveness, and portraying the victim as somehow being the ‘cause’ of the violence enacted against them.

Of course, we know this isn’t true. While many perpetrators of abuse and violence exhibit ‘uncontrollable’ anger towards their victims, most also possess the self control not to extend the same rage or violence towards others. In fact, this can be one of the many ways in which perpetrators seek to persuade victims that the abuse is actually their own fault.

We also know that it takes incredible strength to leave an abusive relationship. But unfortunately, even when abusive relationships end, the abuse often doesn’t.

Every day, we see perpetrators who will use any means at their disposal to continue their pattern of coercion and control. Leaving the relationship does not stop the abuse, it often exacerbates it, leaving victims and survivors at their most vulnerable.

Even when perpetrators admit abuse – as Mr Saatchi did when he accepted a police caution for common assault this summer – many will still claim to be the victims of violence or abuse themselves. It is not uncommon for perpetrators to attempt to mask the truth of their own behaviour by expressing concern for their victim while smearing their name with allegations of bad parenting or drug-taking, for example.

Some victims use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with violent and abusive behaviour. Such drug use often ends when the victim is free from the relationship and safe, because this coping mechanism is no longer needed.

By speaking out this week about your experiences, you show women everywhere that an abusive relationship can happen to any woman, at any time. You have also shown that victims can leave abusive relationships when they are ready, with the help and support of friends, family or supporting services.

Your strength and dignity show all victims and survivors that they are not alone, and like you, they can move on to a new and better life. For this we cannot thank you enough and we are proud to be part of #TeamNigella.

Yours, with much admiration,

The Aurora New Dawn Team


At Christmas and New Year, the number of domestic and sexual violence incidents goes up. Unfortunately, funding for the services that help victims doesn’t. If you can spare £3, £5, £10 or even more to support Aurora New Dawn, a local charity that will be working hard for local victims and survivors throughout the holidays, you will help to bring safety and support to victims and families when they need it most.

Simply text RFAV27 followed by the amount you want to donate to 70070

And if you can’t spare any money, why not help by sharing this page on Facebook or Twitter.

[1] BBC News online, Rise in convictions for violence against women, 2012,

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About the author

Writer in Residence

Sarah Cheverton is Aurora New Dawn's Writer in Residence and a freelance writer and researcher. As well as writing the copy for the Aurora website, Sarah works with the Aurora team on consultation responses, communications and service evaluations. She also works as a Co-Editor for feminist news site Women's Views on News.

See all of Writer in Residence's articles — 88 total

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