Lennon says she was sexually assaulted
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