Cristina Odone

Journalist, novelist and broadcaster

I’m always shouting at my husband but no, Lady Hale, I don’t think I ought to …

January 27, 2011 @ 12:34 pm


Shouting is not the same as real violence

Thank goodness Lady Hale has never set foot in our home, or I'd be sleeping under Blackfriars Bridge tonight. I am, you see, guilty of domestic violence: I shout at my husband on a regular basis, with everything from accusations ("You slob!") to threats ("I'm going to throw that Blackberry out of the window!").

I blame my Italian upbringing, which means my normal mode of speech is somewhere between excited yelps and high-pitched hysteria. It's tiring and tiresome for my nearest and dearest, no doubt; but I never thought it was an act of aggression. Until Lady Hale, that is: now I know that my behaviour is not only abusive, it is downright criminal, and could cost me my home and my freedom.

This judge is an ass! (And I'm not afraid to shout it, at the top of my lungs!) As anyone who's ever been to Italy or India will tell you, shouting is a cultural thing. Given the din of everyday life in certain countries, everyone from a working class wife to a high-paid industrialist shouts simply to make themselves heard. Foreigners will take a shrill voice as proof of anger or aggression; natives know better: how else to drown out the roaring of the Vespa or the backfire of the rickshaw?

Sensitive Anglo Saxon ears may be unaccustomed to noisy exchanges; I remember an English friend, at lunch in the bosom of an Italian family, sitting silently petrified as Mamma and Papa shouted at one another. "Gosh, why do they hate each other so?!" she asked me afterwards to interpret. "They don't hate each other at all" I explained, " they were only comparing notes on what they'd been doing in the morning."

Lady Hale's decision betrays real ignorance. Not only of cultural differences but of domestic violence itself. If this judge thinks a shouted response amounts to battering a spouse, she's never encountered the real thing: once you've seen a woman with a black and blue body, or a man with a bloodied eye, you know what domestic abuse is. To rank a raised voice with this is an insult to the victims of real violence. Shame!

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