Those who wish to use alleged sexual abuse as a political tool should remember the old adage about people living in glass houses.
Throughout 2018 and much of 2017, newspapers seem to have been dominated by stories of sexual abuse or harassment. The style of reporting, stretching from screaming hysteria through to rational debate, seems to depend on who the alleged offenders were and which newspapers we’re talking about. Some have taken to presenting scandals as being a problem relating only to rich, famous or powerful men, or even to specific political parties. Labour-supporting newspapers have been enthusiastic in their search for anything that can be thrown at their perceived opponents, and so on.
In late 2017, apparently inspired by the #MeToo campaign, a group of female Labour party members started the LabourToo campaign, asking women within Labour to speak out about the sexual abuse or bullying they had suffered within the Labour Party. Women were invited to visit the LabourToo website, where they would be able to report their experiences in safe anonymity. The stories collected through the website tell of harassment, abuse and assault at all levels of the Party, unconstrained by age, race, class or location in the country.
The stories confirmed the LabourToo founders’ suspicions that sexual abuse within the Labour Party was endemic, much wider-spread than it appeared, and affected all levels of the Labour Party, local and national.
A total of 43 women responded, and the concensus was that no proper safeguards existed for women at work nobody had confidence in Labour’s complaints process for reporting incidents. Those who reported their grievances believed they were brushed off.
“A committee member was accused of rape/sexual assault by two members,” one said. “He was asked to resign from his position quietly. He got away with his reputation intact. It was dealt with completely unacceptable by the party and essentially covered up because of fears of how it would look to the outside world/media and damage our reputation.”
A LabourToo spokesperson said: “Despite being prepared for it, we have found it genuinely distressing to read about this level of inexcusable behaviour taking place within the Labour Party. Sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination is not restricted to the corridors of Westminster, but is taking place at all levels within the Labour Party.”
Keep it private
Horrified that men in the Labour Party should be accused of abusing their positions or even simple sexual harassment, militants have attacked the LabourToo members on Twitter and tried to reveal the identity of the group’s members. Some Labour members have taken to claiming that LabourToo is being run by a group of Conservatives out to undermine the Labour Party. After all, their critics ask, why would women who claim to be members of the Labour Party want to do this to their own party? The sins of Labour Party members should be dealt with privately, internally and secretly, so as not to damage Labour’s image, they insist.
A final report, including all the stories collected by LabourToo, along with their recommendations, was sent to Jeremy Corbyn and his team, the NEC, and Karon Monaghan QC, who is examining the existing Labour Party complaints process. LabourToo is calling for an independent complaints process; one which allows individuals to report with confidence, knowing that their complaint will be investigated without prejudice.
There has been a constant media-driven campaign of hysteria surrounding ‘sexual abuse’ for some time. We’ve seen newspaper front pages dominated by demands for a politician to resign for having touched someone’s knee several years before. We’ve seen stories that appear to have been fabricated, and many that are probably genuine but which have been deliberately sensationalised and reported in hysterical language just to increase newspaper sales. The effect of this is to very quickly kill public sympathy, to the detriment of genuine and serious cases of sexual abuse. The recent media coverage has been, in our eyes, almost criminal.
Sexual abuse, by predators of both sexes, all preferences and all ages is a serious issue. It is not a party political tool nor a way for newspapers with declining sales to boost their circulation. Sexual abuse is not something inflicted by the rich on the poor, the famous on the anonymous, by politicians of one party and not another, or even by the powerful on the weak; it is a crime committed by one human being on another. Nobody is immune from accusation and very few are immune from risk of abuse.
For god’s sake stop trying to hide sexual abuse under a political party badge or using it as a political propaganda weapon, and treat the issue and those affected by it with a bit of humanity and respect.