Len­non says she was sex­u­ally as­saulted

East Kilbride News - - NEWS - Colin Pater­son

A Cen­tral Scot­land MSP and for­mer South La­nark­shire coun­cil­lor says she was sex­u­ally as­saulted by a senior male col­league at a Labour Party so­cial event.

Mon­ica Len­non re­vealed her or­deal, which hap­pened in 2013 and be­fore she was elected an MSP, in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with our sis­ter paper the Sun­day Mail.

Ms Len­non said she has cho­sen to go pub­lic on the at­tack be­cause she does not be­lieve po­lit­i­cal par­ties are do­ing enough to sup­port vic­tims who are sex­u­ally as­saulted or ha­rassed.

An ini­tial complaint was made to Labour but Ms Len­non did not pur­sue the mat­ter be­cause she feared not be­ing be­lieved.

She is the most high-pro­file senior UK politi­cian to re­veal she has been vic­tim of a sex­ual as­sault since the scan­dal which has en­gulfed pol­i­tics.

“It hap­pened at a Labour Party so­cial event in 2013, be­fore I was an MSP,” said Ms Len­non, re­call­ing her or­deal.

“It was a pri­vate func­tion, a room full of peo­ple. A man, who was a senior fig­ure in the party, touched me in a man­ner that some would say is ‘handsy’. He was sit­ting next to me when he groped me, in full view of other peo­ple.

“In the past few weeks, I have heard the word ‘handsy’ be­ing used a lot but re­ally this is just a eu­phemism for a sex­ual as­sault.

“I don’t want to go into the full de­tails but he touched my body, in an in­ti­mate way, with­out in­vi­ta­tion or per­mis­sion. “This shouldn’t hap­pen to any­one. “It’s pos­si­ble at least half a dozen peo­ple saw ex­actly what hap­pened. One man, who at the time was a Labour politi­cian, joked to ev­ery­one in earshot: ‘That’s your fault for com­ing over here and get­ting him all ex­cited.’

“A few days later, I ran into another man who had seen what hap­pened and he made a jokey reference to it. The un­der­ly­ing mes­sage was clear – the whole thing was to be treated as a joke.

“I con­fided in my fam­ily and clos­est friends but it did not cross my mind to go to the po­lice.”

Ms Len­non, Labour’s spokes­woman on in­equal­i­ties, said she be­came con­cerned about the per­pe­tra­tor’s be­hav­iour.

“I phoned Scot­tish Labour,” she said. “I was asked if I wanted to make an of­fi­cial writ­ten complaint. I just felt like that wasn’t re­ally an op­tion. I didn’t feel I would be be­lieved. His friends were al­ready fram­ing me as a trou­ble­maker.”

A wit­ness to the in­ci­dent con­tacted po­lice but Ms Len­non was un­happy with ‘as­pects of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion’ and ‘frus­trated’ the mat­ter was re­ported with­out her knowl­edge.

Ms Len­non added: “Pol­i­tics was a male­dom­i­nated en­vi­ron­ment for so long and there can be a sense of en­ti­tle­ment which is quite per­va­sive.

“There has to be a change in cul­ture now and, if that means the par­ties work­ing to­gether to achieve it, so be it. This is about ev­ery­one, not just politi­cians.”

Al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment have rocked West­min­ster, with Tory MP Michael Fal­lon quit­ting as de­fence min­is­ter af­ter sto­ries emerged of him touch­ing a fe­male jour­nal­ist’s knee at a din­ner 15 years ago.

Mean­while, at Holy­rood, child­care and early years min­is­ter Mark McDon­ald SNP MSP stood down over pre­vi­ous ac­tions he con­sid­ered as “in­ap­pro­pri­ate”.

Cul­ture changeMon­ica Len­non MSP wants all po­lit­i­cal par­ties to prop­erly sup­port vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment

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