IT was the photo of Damian Green leaving the house with his wife and an overnight bag that caught my attention. A pleasant-looking woman in advanced middle-age, Mrs Green had managed to maintain an amiable expression in the face of the press, with its bank of camera lenses, and a pelting of journalists’ questions. She was no doubt feeling as queasy as her name suggests, but there was no ill humour or scowling, no indication that she feared the world was collapsing around her ears.

And, indeed, it may be that the claims made against her husband – of a hand on a knee and compromising text messages – are proved as innocent as he says they are. So too the “extreme porn” a police officer says was found on a computer in his Westminster office. When the investigation into these matters reports, Mrs Green might well find her spouse completely vindicated, allowing their life, and marriage, to continue as before.

Except of course it will never be quite the same again. If Mr Green is cleared of all wrong-doing, there will still be that, at best, ill-advised text message to his accuser, as he salivated over the image of her in a corset, and suggested they meet for a drink. No wife would like or forget that. It would set the mind racing, searching backwards for other instances of flirting that have been filed under “minor misdemeanours” or “misinterpretations” – overly familiar acts with other women at a Christmas party, say, where the mistletoe was abundant, or a New Year bash, where drink flowed too freely.

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Even if he is found guilty of being a creep, Mr Green’s alleged flaws are as nothing to the severity of the charges levelled against Harvey Weinstein. If proven, the movie mogul’s acts will have been violent and depraved. Not the stuff of marital betrayal and hurt, but imprisonable offences. But what about his wife? Did the sudden flood of stories and accusations last month take her completely by surprise? You can’t help wondering if the speed at which she left him was a symptom of fears confirmed, of the nightmare of long-held knowledge made public, rather than a response of utter shock. Or maybe it is worse: perhaps the way he has treated her has strayed into the same degrading and frightening territory, and the allegations rang all too true.

We will probably never know, and nor should we. The last thing these women need is further probing of their private lives. Finding themselves suddenly in the spotlight through no fault of their own is bad enough. Yet it’s the women – because it is mainly women – behind the sleaze-balls who are more interesting, and concerning, than the men involved. In ordinary life, someone faced with revelations of her partner’s infidelity or lechery can act as she thinks best. To leave or not to leave is a question entirely for her heart. The spouses of public figures, however, are in a different situation. First there is the gauntlet they must run of public humiliation. And for those who stand by their man, refusing to believe the charges, there is the risk of ultimately being shown to be gullible.

Yet an unwritten part of the nuptial contract of every politician is that his spouse will stay loyal, regardless. Wives of men like JFK and Bill Clinton, or John Major and Jack McConnell (now Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale), who admitted to affairs, do not immediately head for the divorce courts. Perhaps they want to; or perhaps there is comfort, of a cold kind, in feeling obliged to keep the relationship ticking over. In many instances, redemption of a sort might even be possible. Years later Lord McConnell said the crisis helped strengthen his marriage. Even those guilty of the grubby pawing and groping too many powerful men indulge in, have acted reprehensibly, repugnantly, but not criminally. Their actions are hard to forgive, but it is surely, eventually, possible.

The journalist who reported Sir Michael Fallon’s knee-grabbing said she did not consider it a resigning matter. But whatever else is subsequently learned about the former Minister of Defence’s behaviour, one expects his wife would have thought that single incident sufficient to hold a summit on the state of their union, and its future, or lack of.

I doubt many women whose husbands work long hours at the office or are away on frequent business trips do not occasionally wonder or worry. Until our own more liberated and salaciously reported age, turning a blind eye to suspicions saved millions of marriages, for good or ill. It is harder to do today, when news flies around the world in minutes. So you can be sure that the wives of public figures are currently living in dread, bracing themselves for a tweet or text that, rightly or wrongly, pitches them into the same maelstrom. Among the conflicting emotions of those whose husbands are convicted of sleaze, fury will be foremost. Yet it can never be shown. These women are the other side of this scandal, victims of a different order, who dare not speak their mind.