Changes to domestic abuse laws, a fright at the opera and modern manners

I understand why controlling behaviour is so insidious; the problem is, how do you prove it?

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Campaigners against domestic violence want "controlling behaviour" to be criminalised – but how easy would it be to enforce? Ministers are considering changes to the laws relating to domestic violence, and some women's groups want any new definition to include "excessive jealousy", forcing a partner to behave in certain ways, limiting who they can see, and dictating what they wear or controlling their money and what they can buy.

I can see where they're coming from. I'm a strong-willed person, but once I found myself in the grip of someone who started to impose all sorts of sanctions on my behaviour. If I disagreed, his temper was frightening and he caused a lot of damage at home. It was a gradual process, and I started to believe that he was angry because I had done something wrong – I kept on blaming myself, when really he was probably mentally ill and a chronic bully.

So I understand why mental abuse is so insidious; the problem is, how do you prove it? Women deny it's going on to their closest friends and family, because controlling behaviour is a form of brain-washing. It's embarrassing to admit to. But mental abuse is as draining and damaging as being hit.

A new European Union survey estimates that 44 per cent of women in Britain have been physically or sexually abused – a shocking statistic. How many go to the police? In 2012-13, 17,000 people claimed they had been raped, but only 5,000 of those allegations were sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Two thirds of those resulted in a conviction, but the conviction rate as a percentage of the total allegations is not encouraging. If the domestic violence laws are rewritten to include controlling behaviour then the police will need special training; women are more likely to come forward if there are more female officers in the force. Women would be able to submit phone records, bank statements and financial details, but I still think that this will be a very difficult crime to bring to court.

Another issue could be that in some ethnic communities men assume they are the head of the household, and tradition dies hard. There's a fine line between forceful macho behaviour and unacceptable bullying. Finally, women bully men too, and that needs to be recognised.

Opera's out of tune setting

Why do directors think audiences cannot sit through a Handel opera without a wacky modern setting and some comic turns? The new production of Rodelinda, at the ENO, is a classic example – all the singing is of a very high standard, and the two counter-tenors, Iestyn Davies and Christopher Ainslie, are sublime.

Sadly, Richard Jones has decided that this convoluted tale of a power struggle for the Kingdom of Milan (first performed in 1725) will only be palatable if it is set in post-war Italy. Instead of kings and courtiers, we have mafia bosses, surveillance cameras, a seedy bar and an underground bunker. The sets are so complicated that clunking distracts from the singing as the stage hands struggle with scene changes.

This beautiful opera is the story of morality triumphing over brutality and deception, it doesn't need the slapstick. At more than three hours, it's still a rewarding evening.

Napkins at dawn

Major-General James Cowan has led our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but his greatest challenge could lie ahead. Last week, a government adviser said he thought that children from lower down the social scale should be taught "how to be posh" in order to have the confidence to apply for universities. In other words, they need to be taught how to think middle-class.

The Major-General has been lecturing his troops on how to conduct themselves off the battlefield, and has caused a sensation with a letter detailing his list of pet hates, which include eating with your hands ("a gentleman or lady uses a knife and fork") and "barbaric" table manners, that is holding cutlery like a pen. He says "we recruit our officers from a broad pool, I don't want them to be disadvantaged by innocent ignorance".

More than half a million school leavers are out of work and need to be trained in social skills to make them employable – so why not send the Major-General around the country, conducting flash courses in courtesy, conversation and manners. A modern version of square-bashing without the parade ground. His no-nonsense approach could work wonders.

Chanel shopping

At 80, Karl Lagerfeld shows no sign of slowing down. His determination to outshine his rivals was taken to new levels of extravagance last week, when he created a Chanel "supermarket" inside the Grand Palais in Paris to showcase his collection for next autumn.

The audience sat either side of aisles containing over 500 specially branded items from ketchup to washing powder, confectionery and even a chainsaw, made with a real Chanel chain. Models paraded up and down with trolleys and wire baskets, larking about as they "shopped". Some critics decried the spectacle as vulgar and crass, saying that Coco would be "turning in her grave".

I disagree. Fashion is all about unnecessary purchases that make the wearer feel great. Karl takes street style, trainers, leggings and holey crop-tops, and turns them into desirable pieces of art. No different to Andy Warhol, really. Twenty five years ago, he created hoodies emblazoned with the Chanel logo (I still have mine) – now he's made the ubiquitous trainer chic, covering them in beautiful jewels and embroidery. Suddenly, those vertiginous Jimmy Choos seem very old hat. Sadly, buying into Karl's supermarket chic will cost more than the price of a year's groceries from Lidl.

French weirdness

Dominique Strauss-Kahn still faces charges of "aggravated pimping" in France, but voters seem unconcerned by his controversial relationships with women.

The former finance minister and head of the International Monetary Fund was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel worker in New York, but the charges were dropped. Then, a French journalist said he'd tried to rape her, but prosecutors decided not to proceed. He was also accused of being involved in a prostitution ring; his marriage to a television journalist has foundered and you'd think he'd be regarded as political poison. Far from it. A poll conducted by Le Parisien Magazine found that 56 per cent thought he'd make a better job of running the country than President Hollande, who only manage to score 34 per cent. The magazine decided not to publish the poll … but the results were leaked to a radio station.

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