A prominent Labour activist has alleged she was raped at a party event and then discouraged from reporting the incident to police, saying she was told it may harm her career to do so.
Speaking on Radio 4's PM programme Bex Bailey said she reported the 2011 incident to a senior Labour party staff member, who said it might "damage her" should she report it.
She said: "I was seriously sexually assaulted at a Labour party event by – it wasn’t an MP – but someone who was more senior to me. It took me a while to summon up the courage to tell anyone in the party, but when I did, I told a senior member of staff, who told me... it was suggested to me that I not report it.
"I was told that if I did, it might damage me and that might be their genuine view, it might be that that was the case, in which case that shows that we have a serious problem in politics, with this issue anyway."
Bailey, a well-known Labour activist and former member of the party's National Executive Committee, said she did not report the rape to police, adding: "I was scared, I felt ashamed. I know that the Labour party, like any family, loves a good gossip and I didn’t want people to know, and I also was worried that I wouldn’t be believed if I did. So, erm, no I didn’t."
The charity worker has spent years campaigning for better provision for dealing with sexual assault within political parties, and called for an independent agency to be set up to deal with issues not just within parliament, but in politics as a whole.
"I wasn’t given good advice. I wasn’t given a procedure when I asked for it so that I could sort of see what would happen if I did report it and then make a decision," she said. "It seemed to be that there wasn’t one that existed and I wasn’t signposted to anyone else that could help me in terms of a charity or anything like that. I don’t think I was even given a cup of tea at the time."
She continued: "It was quite a horrible experience and this is why I’ve been fighting so hard for changes to the way that we do this, because I know how hard it is and I don’t want other women to experience what I did."
Describing how the system could look, she said: "We need an independent agency that people can report these issues to, as opposed to members of party staff, so that they feel confident that they can report these difficult issues without feeling that they will be penalised.
"And in terms of what that could look like, you’re talking about a charity or body that is contracted to the Labour party to provide these services so that you as a woman, trying to report this, can contact them and say what you’ve experienced and know that you’ll be believed, know that you’ll be looked after importantly, and they will be able to discuss with you whether you should take it to the police.
"And whether, if you do decide not to do that, the route that you can go down with the party, and they could take your report and pass that on to the party, if you decide to do that, and they could take the names out of it so that it’s anonymous."
The Labour party introduced a specific policy to deal with incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault in July, following years of campaigning by female members, but they say more still needs to be done.
On Friday, a spokesperson for Labour Women’s Network, the organisation of female members that has campaigned for the complaints procedure to be introduced, said they welcomed the new policy, but told BuzzFeed News there was “still more to do” in ensuring the Labour party has a zero-tolerance approach.
A Labour spokesperson said: "The Labour Party takes these allegations extremely seriously. It takes great courage for victims of rape to come forward – and all support must and will be made available to them.
“We would strongly recommend that the police investigate the allegations of criminal actions that Bex Bailey has made.
“Labour will also launch an independent investigation into claims that a party employee acted improperly over these 2011 allegations."
Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hannah Al-Othman at email@example.com.
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