Behind Closed Doors

By Deborah Hobson

Dear Deidre,“My wife was so violent I divorced her- but now I’m really hurting because I love her so much.” Ironically, this heart-felt letter appeared in the agony aunt's page of The Sun newspaper, the same morning when its editor Rebekah Wade made headline news because she was arrested for allegedly beating up her actor husband Ross Kemp.

Kemp, who plays hard man Grant Mitchell in the popular soap EastEnders, was said to have suffered a cut to his lip during a heated row. Steve McFadden, who plays Kemp's on-screen ‘bruv’ Phil Mitchell, coincidentally appeared to have experienced similar abuse at the hands of ex-partner Angela Bostock who was arrested at the same time for punching McFadden in the face outside her north London home. If these accounts are true, both actors join the growing number of men in the UK who are the victims of domestic violence. British Crime Survey statistics show that 15 per cent of men aged between 16-59 said they had been physically assaulted by a partner at some time in their lives. This figure increased to 17 per cent when aggressive threats were included.

The 'battered man' syndrome is still a taboo subject for many people, especially the victims themselves who fear ridicule in what to them has been an emasculating experience. Patricia Pearson, in her book “When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence”, details accounts of a car mechanic whose fiancée pushed him down a flight of stairs causing a concussion; a teacher whose wife went to jail after stabbing him with a coiled hanger and leaving her teeth marks on his leg and a 40-year-old insurance broker whose wife kicked him in the groin, sending him flying through a sliding glass door.

Eight hours in police custody will have provided Rebekah Wade with sufficient time for sober reflection. Undone by the domestic violence against which her newspaper has campaigned, perhaps she should take note of agony aunt Deidre’s advice: “No one deserves to be a punch-bag for anyone.”