No rules about controlling relationships

Coverage of an assault by Charles Saatchi on his wife Nigella Lawson, outside a London restaurant at the weekend, has sparked considerable debate in the press and on social media – not least as to why people felt it was OK to photograph and document events, rather than intervene.

Writing in the Telegraph, Iris McCann and Dr. Petra Boynton have used the opportunity to discuss the different faces of domestic abuse, and to offer advice to those who recognise their experience.

Significantly, they write,

A controlling relationship is when an individual will begin to dominate and intimidate their partner, often through emotional and/ or physical abuse. It can happen to anyone: male, female, children, young people and old people, there is no distinction. And it can happen within any relationship: straight, gay, parent-to-child, child-to-parent. There are no obvious boundaries or ‘rules’.

Just as it is important that we remember this, it is worth underlining that parent abuse need not involve physical assault or violence. The use of the term “child to parent violence”, which has come in to use more and more recently, might seem to give this impression. It is one of the reasons there is so much dispute as to what terminology to use when talking about the abuse experienced by parents (or carers) at the hands of their children. There are some important differences between intimate partner violence and parent abuse, but what they hold in common is the range of expression, including controlling and manipulative behaviour, a difficulty often in naming the behaviour as abusive, and a sense of shame by the abused party which makes it difficult to get help.

Which leaves the question of whether to intervene or not for another occasion.


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