Yet another domestic violence scandal has emerged in the upper realms of society. Yesterday the Evening Standard reported that Damian Brenninkmeyer, head of the Old Masters department at Christie’s Amsterdam and a member of the C&A clothes store dynasty, pleaded guilty to hitting his wife across the face, in front of their children, while the family were in the car.
Brenninkmeyer had been cautioned two days earlier for another assault, and he was still angry at his wife, Fiona, for calling the police. Before hitting her he had warned that if she called the police again, he would break her phone and tell the accountant not to allow her to have another, the court in Amsterdam heard.
This news comes less than two months after advertising mogul and art collector Charles Saatchi accepted a police caution for grabbing his wife, Nigella Lawson, by the throat in a crowded restaurant. Saatchi later announced his decision to divorce Lawson via the Mail on Sunday.
One in four women in the UK suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime, and this latest scandal should emphasise the obvious, but often overlooked point, that men and women from all parts of society are affected. In the next issue of Spear’s I’ve investigated the violence that occurs within the homes of some of the world’s richest people — and how wealth affects the way police, doctors, teachers and other front-line officials handle domestic abuse cases. These are issues we really need to start talking about, because whether the perpetrator is rich or poor, silence is often an abuser’s strongest weapon.
Pictured above: Damian Brenninkmeyer
Brenninkmeyer’s phone threat is revealing too. It not only provides a prime example of emotional abuse, but it shows that ostensibly wealthy women in abusive relationships are not necessarily in control of their own finances. How many women are held hostage to the threat that the accountant will deny them access to the funds they need to protect themselves, or to escape their situation?
The case also highlighted the ineffectiveness of police cautions when it comes to domestic violence. Saatchi appeared neither humbled nor bowed after receiving his caution — and for Brenninkmeyer it provided an excuse for further violence. It is only now that Brenninkmeyer has been banned from his family’s Fulham postcode.
It would be interesting to know what support or guidance was offered to Fiona when she reported Brenninkmeyer’s behaviour. A police caution will have very few consequences for the abuser — a small shock or social embarrassment perhaps — but that’s enough to increase an already-volatile individual’s anger and resentment. And for those at home, the consequences of this anger can be immeasurably greater.
This post first appeared at Spear's.