BBC presenter Fiona Bruce has announced she will step back from her role as an ambassador for the charity Refuge after she was accused of trivialising domestic violence during a discussion about Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson.

Bruce was criticised after she intervened when the father of the former prime minister was described as a “wife-beater” in last Thursday’s episode of Question Time.

Journalist and panel member Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said Mr Johnson’s alleged history of violence was “on the record”, at which point Bruce interrupted.

She said at the time: “I’m not disputing what you’re saying, but just so everyone knows what this is referring to, Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and that she’d ended up in hospital as a result.

“Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen, but it was a one-off.”

In a statement on Monday in which she announced her decision to step back from her role as an ambassador for Refuge, Bruce said she was a “passionate advocate” for survivors of domestic abuse and said she had been subject to a “social media storm” which “mischaracterised” her words.

Bruce said: “I have been a passionate advocate and campaigner for all survivors of domestic abuse, and have used my privileged position as a woman in the public eye to bring this issue to the fore, notably in my work for over 25 years with Refuge.

“But following the events of last week, I have faced a social media storm, much of which mischaracterised what I said and took the form of personal abuse directed at me.

“The only people that matter in all this are the survivors, they are my priority. The last thing in the world that I would want is that this issue in any way creates a distraction from Refuge’s critical work on their behalf, and therefore I think the right thing to do is to step back from my role with Refuge.

“This has been a hard decision for me as I feel so strongly about promoting their work and advancing awareness of this issue. I will continue to be an active supporter, albeit from the sidelines for now.”

Last week, in response to the presenter’s comments, Refuge said: “Refuge’s position is clear – domestic abuse is never a ‘one off’, it is a pattern of behaviour that can manifest in a number of ways, including physical abuse. Domestic abuse is never acceptable.

“We have spoken to Fiona today, and she is appalled that any of her words have been understood as her minimising domestic violence. We know she is deeply upset that this has been triggering for survivors.”

It added that it continues to be appreciative of all the work Bruce does on behalf of Refuge.

This story is being updated.

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