Nigella Lawson's soon-to-be-ex husband Charles Saatchi announced this weekend that he's divorcing his wife because she didn't make a big fucking show of defending him after a series of horrifying photos of him publicly strangling her made the media rounds a month ago. In his self-pitying statement announcing he was leaving her, he dropped what I'm sure he thought was a bombshell: Nigella has strangled him, too. Like, a bunch of times. I might get in trouble for this, but fuck it — I don't believe him.
It's not that I don't believe it's possible for men to be abused by women — it happens all the time, and it's often overlooked due to outdated social attitudes about violence and gender. In general, doubting the account of a person who says they were abused is an asshole move. But Charles Saatchi's pattern of behavior reads as though it was lifted directly from the pages of The Domestic Abusers Pocket Reader, an imaginary handbook I made up for the purpose of indicating that this is the sort of shit abusers pull as a matter of course. This is textbook.
But before we go into that, let's talk about what we know versus what we don't know: We know that Charles Saatchi strangled his wife in public and was photographed doing so. We know that Charles Saatchi attempted to, as the Telegraph put it, "take back some control of his situation" in the aftermath of the scandal by telling the Daily Mail he was going to divorce Nigella Lawson before he told Nigella Lawson he was going to divorce Nigella Lawson. We don't know that what Charles Saatchi said about Nigella strangling him in private is true; we just know that Charles Saatchi said it.
Here's what we know about domestic abusers. They refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They're manipulative. They lie. According to a domestic violence advocate quoted in the Telegraph piece, women victimized by abusive relationships with men do occasionally strike back in private, but their retaliatory violence is dwarfed by what their partners do to them and is often used as justification for further abuse. Abusers treat perceived slights from their victims like coupons they can redeem at will, like fucking tickets from a skee ball machine. You were late getting home from work, you shared a lingering glance with the waiter last week, and when I tried to hug you, you shoved me. Looks like someone's on his way to earning the right to put his hands on your neck in public! Abusers will never accept that they've done anything wrong.
Nothing Charles Saatchi has done in the wake of the incident a month ago refutes the notion that Charles Saatchi is an abuser; if anything, he's acting a lot like a lot of guys who do this all the time. Why should we believe anything he says?