Filming an upcoming episode of Piers Morgan's Life Stories for ITV1, the New Tricks star discussed his marriage and divorce from actress Rula Lenska.
Of his 11-year marriage to Lenska, Waterman admitted that he had twice slapped and punched the 64-year-old, but told Morgan: "She certainly wasn't a beaten wife, she was hit and that's different."
According to The Mirror, he claimed: "It's not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her."
However, recalling the incident, Waterman said that he was "very, very ashamed" of his behaviour: "We were going through a horrible time and arguing a lot. The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue, well.
"And if there is a time where you can't get a word in... and I... I lashed out. I couldn't end the argument. Something must have brought it on. When frustration builds up and you can't think of a way out... It happened and I'm very, very ashamed of it."
Admitting that he had "drunk too much" to recall exact details, Waterman said that he "must have punched her one time" when Lenska had ended up with a black eye.
"I'd never done it before or since," he added. "But if a woman is a bit of a power freak and determined to put you down, and if you're not bright enough to do it with words, it can happen. And it did happen in my case."
The chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, Sandra Horley CBE, has criticised the actor for his comments, telling the paper: "I am appalled by Dennis Waterman's comments about his violence towards Rula Lenska, which trivialise the abuse he inflicted on her.
"No-one can make their partner hit them. However angry or frustrated Dennis felt, he could have chosen to deal with those feelings another way but he chose violence. He alone is responsible for his behaviour."
Horley added: "It doesn't matter whether he hit her once, twice or a dozen times - no man is entitled to hit his wife. Domestic violence is against the law.
"At Refuge we do not define domestic violence by the number of assaults but by the effect on the victim. Once a woman has been hit, she lives with the fear it could happen again and research shows it almost always does."
Waterman, who confirmed that his partner Pam Flint recently became his fourth wife, said that he is "quite Victorian" in his attitude to women: "It's been suggested that I'm chauvinistic but I don't think I am, I'm just... I think there is a place for women at home."
Piers Morgan's Life Stories returns to ITV1 next month.
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