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Domestic abuse is not a private matter


Boris Johnson, 22 June 2019, Don't Be Bystander, domestic abuse, not a private matter, call the police, Domestic abuse kills over two women a week in England and Wales: don’t do nothing.

In England, since reports of Boris Johnson’s behaviour on the weekend of 22 June, you’d not be mistaken for thinking we have returned to a time where ‘what happens behind closed doors’ is private, a family matter, ‘just a domestic’, something which neighbours and the public shouldn’t be concerned about.

It has been alarming to see the mixed messages by politicians and other commentators about whether neighbours should call the police if they have concerns about women’s safety.

And it is deeply concerning to hear the demands that neighbours worried when they hear women screaming loudly should justify themselves for calling the police.

Johnson has repeatedly refused to adress the issue – either in terms of what actually happened, or the wider issue.

And, as Labour MP Jess Philips, speaking to Ayesha Hazarika on LBC, said, he missed an opportunity to put the safety of women above himself.

“Boris Johnson had the opportunity to give an explanation and to say to the nation that it was the right thing for the neighbours to call the police and the right thing for them to try to gather evidence,” she said.

“This is what everyone should do.

“But instead his very poor character has picked himself over the safety of women in this country, and the line that he is putting out is that this is a private family matter.

“Those of us who have campaigned for years have tried to move that dial, and he is taking us back and that is dangerous.”

The national ‘Don’t Be A Bystander’ campaign issued by the Welsh Government is clear:

Domestic abuse is not a private matter. It is a crime and it kills over two women a week in England and Wales;

Domestic abuse should not be kept within the family, behind closed doors. This is what abusers want us to believe and explains why they may be charming with other people, why it may be hard to spot;

We should not stand by or accept violence against women, or domestic abuse or sexual violence in our communities;

By remaining silent, we condone abuse, we minimise it, we give abusers permission to continue their behaviour;

We should understand that it is never the victim’s fault; the responsibility must always rest with the abuser;

And asking women to explain themselves or justify their actions is victim-blaming.

We may be the only person who has noticed what is happening next door or who is worried about a friend, family member or colleague.

By not asking ‘are you ok?’ we ignore the evidence that women experiencing abuse often want to be asked if they need help, and how much they need and value knowing there are people around them who will be ready to help when needed.

Don’t be a bystander.

Take action if you are concerned about someone’s safety or about someone’s abusive behaviour.

Call it out, tell someone – and call the police if you think someone is in danger.

Welsh Women’s Aid calls time’s up on abusers whose behaviour goes unchallenged and unpunished, and on colluding with the everyday abuse that happens in our homes and communities.

We know sometimes that when we dare speak out, call out abuse, and stand up for others we are concerned about, we will likely face criticism because those with more perceived power or social status want us to keep quiet.

But if you are worried about it not being your business, remember you could be someone’s lifeline.

By not making that call or not speaking out, we only collude with and further contribute to women’s misery and silence, while expanding the space for action for abusers everywhere.

If you are worried that someone is in danger, call the police on 999.

If you are worried about someone you know, see this website for more information on what you can do.

If you need help or are concerned about someone you know, you can get in touch with the Wales Live Fear Free Helpline.

Domestic abuse includes psychological, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, coercive controlling behaviour, threats and intimidation, economic abuse and harassment.

It is never acceptable – and can be prevented, if we intervene early enough.

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