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Saatchi and Lawson: should you intervene?

The horrific photographs of Charles Saatchi attacking Nigella Lawson have sparked a huge public debate about domestic violence. I deplore his characterisation of the incident as a “playful tiff”. You can get a summary of some of the issues from the Daily Telegraph story here. One of the questions it raises is about whether bystanders should intervene. Women’s Aid have argued against on the basis that it may be dangerous for you and/or the person affected. They suggest calling the police. Others have argued for intervention.

Restored sees the role of ordinary people like you and me as being vital in reducing the incidence of violence against women. There is a substantial “bystander intervention” literature which suggests that intervention can be important both to mitigate incidents that are occurring, but also to prevent them happening in the first place. You can read a comprehensive assessment of the issues by the Australian Humans Rights commission here.

Every situation is different, and your primary concern should be the safety of the person affected and your own safety. If you are concerned in this regard then calling the police is the best option. There may also be things that you can do, however, by asking if everything is alright, by shouting at the perpetrator to stop, by knocking on a door or wall to make people aware that they are being heard.

Public displays of violence are occasional. Just as important are our everyday actions that challenge a culture that allows violence to occur. Restored’s First Man Standing campaign asks men to respect women and challenge the behaviour of other men. That means showing courage to intervene in challenging sexist remarks and comments that justify abuse. It can be difficult, but it certainly changes the atmosphere. You can sign up to First Man Standing here.

Restored was able to be at the Gathering, Christian Vision for Men’s annual conference, with over 1000 men last weekend. We heard from people for whom greater awareness has led to them changing their behaviour. Most of all, however, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that can change people’s hearts and cause them to turn away from violence. At the final session I asked the young guy next to me what he was going to do differently as a result of the Gathering and he said that he was going to treat his wife better and stop arguing for the sake of her and their little daughter. I am excited to think how that relationship has been influenced for the good. We can see the world changed, one person at a time.