I do not know what went on in the Boris Johnson household nor do I know anything about the motivations of the neighbour who reported the alleged incident.
I do know that we must be very careful how we talk about domestic abuse and nothing in the response to this story must be allowed to further trap individuals in situations of domestic abuse nor make it less likely that such abuse will be reported.
The idea that what goes on in the privacy of someone’s house is no one else’s business is a very dangerous road. When I began as a counsellor over thirty years ago, when clients shared stories of domestic abuse they, and we, often felt completely powerless. If the police were called, they often refused to intervene saying it was “just a domestic”. Vulnerable women (and some men) were left trapped in relationships, denied the protection of the law. And there was almost no point in even trying to challenge rape in marriage.
Thankfully the attitude of both the law and the police has changed. It is still incredibly difficult for a victim of domestic abuse to challenge and report what has happened to them but thankfully, if called, the police are less likely to just dismiss it as “a domestic”.
Similarly, a concerned neighbour can often be an essential part of challenging the actions of an abuser and can even be a life-saver for a victim of abuse.
Everyone has a right to feel safe in their own home. Violence is violence, abuse is abuse, rape is rape, neither the location nor the relationship between victim or perpetrator is ever any excuse.
Neither friends or newspapers wanting to defend Boris Johnson, nor those championing the neighbour, must be allowed to say or do anything that will make it harder for a person to report abuse themselves or for a neighbour to do so. To claim that this is a domestic, a private matter, runs the risk of setting back the progress that has been made in more recent times in challenging domestic abuse.
If, following this story, and the way it is presented, an abuser can trap their victim but saying their words or actions are private, or a neighbour hesitates to report an overheard incident, then the damage from this story is of far greater concern than the possible hurt to an individual’s political ambition.
Please let us all be very careful and let nothing we say or do in response to these events undermine our stand against domestic violence.