Protecting daughters from abusive relationships

This week Nigella Lawson was photographed with her husband’s hand round her throat. How can we make sure children never have to experience abuse from a partner when they grow up? Plus, the warning signs of a controlling relationship.

When I became the mother of one, then two, girls I would occasionally think about the prevalence of eating disorders and what I could do to make sure my girls never suffered from one. But the more I worked in my job on this section, and in my role as patron of a women’s legal organisation, I realised that there was a greater ill that could befall them: getting into an abusive domestic relationship.

Two weeks ago, I got a particularly disturbing letter from a reader who suspects her sister is in such a relationship. The sister had isolated herself from her whole family, and when they had last seen her, she appeared terrified. I couldn’t stop thinking about it; 48 hours later the Sunday papers showed Nigella Lawson in a row with her husband, his hand around her throat.

Domestic violence is a particularly pernicious crime. The very place where you are meant to feel safe – home – is often the place of most danger. The very person who should look after you – your partner – attacks you or diminishes you. I wish I could say I can’t imagine what that is like, but unfortunately, as I’ll explain later, I can.

In March 2013, the Home Office published figures relating to violence against women and girls in the UK. It showed that the previous year, 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse. And these are just the ones that come on to the Home Office radar. Continue reading


Annalisa Barbieri is a Guardian columnist and also writes for the Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine, the New Statesman and the Independent.

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