My Love Affair With Patrick Stewart

 
Our house was small, and when you grow up with domestic violence in a confined space you learn to gauge, very precisely, the temperature of situations. I knew exactly when the shouting was done and a hand was about to be raised – I also knew exactly when to insert a small body between the fist and her face, a skill no child should ever have to learn.”
-Patrick Stewart on The Legacy of Domestic Violence,
 The Guardian, 26 November, 2009
He had me at “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”  In my opinion, his Jean-Luc Picard is the only Star Trek captain worthy of helming the USS Enterprise;  Picard makes Kirk and the others look like a pack of braggarts, whiners, and wimps.  For more than 20 years, my love for Patrick Stewart has burned strong and bright, “the star to every wandering bark”.  A talented Shakespearean actor, Sir Patrick nails every role he plays, from Othello to Shylock to the Seattle Opera director with a crush on Frasier.  Then there’s his one-man version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  I can’t think of another actor who I would want to see play 40+ characters.  And let’s not forget the lecherous caricature of himself that he played inExtras. Good gravy, that made my heart beat faster!
My love for Patrick Stewart is sexless, as chaste and pure as that of the heroine in a Victorian novel.  I feel for him what the young X-Men feel for Professor Charles Xavier – admiration, respect, passionate loyalty.   It’s a love, I know, not meant to be tested in real life.  Yet I can’t help myself.
I’ve never met Patrick Stewart.  I know almost nothing of his personal life beyond the fact that he choses to use his fame to support human rights. He’s been a long time supporter of Amnesty International in his native UK. I’ve written recommendation letters for students applying to the internship program he endowed at Amnesty.  (None of them ever got the Patrick Stewart Human Rights Scholarship, so I can’t even claim that two-degrees of separation.)
What really took me ’round the bend on Patrick Stewart was his decision five or six years ago to talk about his own experience with growing up with domestic violence.
“I experienced first-hand violence against my mother from an angry and unhappy man who was not able to control his emotions or his hands. Great harm was done by those events – and of course I mean the physical harm, the physical scars that were left, the blood that was spilled, the wounds that were exposed – but there were also other aspects of violence which have a lasting impact physiologically on family members.  It is so destructive and tainting. 
It’s taken me a long time to be able to speak about what happened.  Then, two years ago, around the time of the launch of the Amnesty International campaign to  Stop Violence Against Women all that changed. After consultation with my brothers, we all felt that it was time for me to speak out about what had happened in our childhood, and to show people that domestic violence is protected by other peoples’ silence.”
– Patrick Stewart, Turning the Tide,
Domestic violence is a worldwide epidemic.  It violates the fundamental human rights of women and often results in serious injury or death. Studies show that between one quarter and one half of all women in the world have been abused by intimate partners.  Certainly men experience domestic violence as well, but women are victims of violence in approximately 95% of cases of domestic violence. (For sources and more statistics, see StopVAW.org)
It took the human rights community far too long to recognize domestic violence and other gender-based rights as human rights abuses.  Because the violence is committed by private actors rather than the government in the context of family life, domestic violence was long considered to be a “private matter”.  Fortunately, the international human rights law has progressed and violence against women is now considered a  human rights abuse.  The government has a responsiblity to prevent violence against women from taking place and to prosecute or punish the perpetrators of the violence.  The UN Committee Against Torture has even clarified that violence against women, including domestic violence, can in certain circumstances be defined as torture under the Convention Against Torture.
Implementation of laws that protect women from domestic violence is, of course, the ongoing problem throughout the world.
It is never easy for survivors of human rights abuses to talk about the violence they experienced.  It comes at great personal expense and sometimes that expense is just too great for people to overcome.  There has been a lot of outrage recently about Rihanna and Chris Brown. I wish Rihanna would become an advocate against domestic violence  – photographed holding an Amnesty International placard – but I can’t judge her or the decisions she makes about her life. It does make me think, though, that it is doubly important for male celebrities like Patrick Stewart to use their fame as a platform to raise awareness about violence against women.
I defy you to watch this video and tell my love of Patrick Stewart is wrong.
What will it take to end domestic violence worldwide?  It will take more than Sir Patrick Stewart.  As he says in this Amnesty video, it will take sustained government action to ensure that domestic violence is treated as a public health issue rather than a private matter.  But Patrick Stewart’s decision to use his celebrity to speak out about the domestic violence experienced in his childhood home puts us one step farther along that road.
“Violence against women diminishes us all.  If you fail to raise your hand in protest, then you make yourself part of the problem.”   
– Patrick Stewart, Turning the Tide,
Amnesty Magazine, May/June 2006
Stop Violence Against Women.
Captain Picard says, “Make it so.”
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6 thoughts on “My Love Affair With Patrick Stewart

  1. I too am a long-term avid fan of Sir Patrick. Due to a very terrible natural disaster here in Australia in feb, 2009 in which my husband and I lost our home and everthing we owned (30 years of married life, two kids) all those memories….things…anyway, Sir Patrick found out about it and at a con he did (two in one weekend, one in Melbourne, the next in Sydney) he requested to meet me (I am a long time member of his only endorsed fan club, the Patrick Stewart Network (PSN) We met privately and he was wonderful. Quiet, gentle and really listened to me. After, the next day we met again and he hugged me and gave me a kiss! I didn’t need the plane to fly home, I floated. But he wasn’t finished. He’d asked me to write down my name and adress. Over the following three months he sent me two large pacels, each addressed in his own hand. I won’t discuss what he sent me, but his kindness, compassion and care halped me through a very difficult time in my life (The 1st anniversary of the fires, Australia’s worst ever natural disater was the weekend after I’d met him) and I know had it not been for him, I don’t know how I would’ve coped. I owe him a debt I can never really repay. He is a decent kind and wonderful human being.

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    1. Wow, Heather! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss – I remember reading about the fires. What a lovely, lovely man! I wish more celebrities were like him. Best wishes to you and your family! Jennifer

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  2. Thank you, Jennifer, nice to meet a fellow Patrick-phile!
    Are you aware of ‘Refuge’ an organisation in the UK that Sir Patrick is the main spokesperson?
    He has organised a drive for dontaions. The original target was 5000GBP but last time I checked it was over 12,000GBP! No doubt due to his endorsement. I dontated, perhaps you might like to as well. I know it’s a UK organisation, but the abuse of women is a world-wide problem. Any help anywhere can makle a difference.
    Anyway, just a thought.
    Kindest Regards,
    Heather.

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  3. Yes, Refuge is an excellent organization that does important work in the UK. I’m so glad to hear of their successful fundraising campaign. The organization that I work for, The Advocates for Human Rights, has a Women’s Human Rights Program that does great work on legal system reform to better protect women throughout the world. Still much work to do! Best wishes, Jennifer

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  4. Oscarphone

    I think that violence against men, by women, also needs to be addressed. I watched many a time when my mother would attack my father with pots, pans and threaten him with a knife. At one point she placed a blow on the top of his head, as he went down the stairs into the basement to avoid her wrath as it had once again gotten out of control, and the huge coffee mug she hit him with (shattering it) left a dripping bloody ring on the top of his head.

    I think you need to alter your message as women aren’t always the victims here. Maybe it should be stopping violence against your partner.

    That being said, thank you Mr. Stewart.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Oscarphone. ( I’ve been traveling, so sorry for the delay in replying.) There is no question that men also experience intimate partner violence. I’m so sorry that you experienced that violence in your own family. I myself have represented both male and female victims of violence in asylum cases and have seen the traumatic impact that it has on survivors. I definitely agree that the overall message should be stopping violence against the partner, no matter the gender. But I also think that domestic violence must be seen as a gender-based human rights violation that is more likely to impact women – and also impact women differently than men. While statistics vary slightly, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women. The National Crime Victimization Survey consistently finds that no matter who initiates the violence, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be injured than are men.

      Intimate partner violence happens throughout the world. It happens across all socio-economic groups. It happens in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. Breaking the cycle of abuse requires strong laws and services for the victims, intervention for the perpetrators, and education for all of us. I hope that you will speak out about your experience, as Sir Patrick Stewart does, to help with this education piece. Thank you again for your comment. I really appreciate that you shared your point of view. Best wishes, Jennifer

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Everyone has the right to an opinion and I'd love to hear yours! While comments are very welcome, they will be moderated. My kids read this blog, too!

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