In December of last year – I was still at this point a member of the SWP – another member (I refuse to call that person a comrade) raped me. At first I refused to accept it and actually felt guilty. This person had been sexually harassing me for about a month prior to the attack and part of me felt that I should have said something sooner. In January, after confiding in a comrade who made me realise what really happened, I decided to file an official complaint with the SWP’s disputes committee.
This was not an easy decision to make. I had sat through that disputes report at conference that same month, with the man who raped me just a few seats away, and had been disgusted at what I had heard. However, I and other comrades truly believed that it must have been a one-off – that the appalling behaviour shown throughout must have been a mistake that would be rectified and never repeated. I think we all know now that we were wrong.
In late January I contacted my organiser to inform them I wanted to make a complaint. It was suggested that a female member in the district would hear my complaint and act as my intermediary. The organiser was a close ‘friend’ of both myself and the offender, and had been in the same house at the same party the night it had happened. I am not going to go into the details of the event, but I will outline the disputes procedure.
I made an initial complaint (of sexual assault, however the description of what happened can be nothing but rape) in which I detailed everything that had happened that night to my intermediary, who took notes. She got in touch with the disputes committee, forwarding the notes that she had taken the night I spoke to her. These notes were sent to Pat Stack, who sent them to Charlie Kimber, who then suspended the offender while the disputes committee (DC) looked into the case.
The DC replied that the complaint had to come from me in my own words. I emailed the DC myself, again forwarding the notes from my intermediary, saying, ‘Please accept this email as my formal complaint to the disputes committee. I have attached the previously forwarded, by [***], notes with one slight change and these are the basis of my complaint.’
As it turned out this still wasn’t enough, and I received this rather abrupt email telling me so:
“Currently, the DC is in receipt of your email (30th Jan 2013) that asks the DC to accept this email and its attachment – [***] previously forwarded (23th Jan 2013) notes with one slight change – as your formal complaint to the DC. You have described these two documents as ‘the basis of your complaint’.
You are asking the DC to accept a third party description of what you said to the third party, as the complaint. This is not possible. Currently, the DC has still not received your account of what happened to you, while the defendant has been suspended for the past two weeks.
You need to finalise your own complaint.
Further, on the phone on Wednesday evening, you named three people to whom you have previously disclosed the identity of the defendant and to whom you are currently disclosing where your DC process is up to. You have done this even though you have open access to your chosen intermediary. Your actions are breaching the confidentiality that must surround complaints processes as well as identities and complaint details.
We recognise that this is difficult for you. We are trying to enable you to communicate clearly with the DC, and to protect the well-being, information and confidential identity of involved Comrades to the best of our abilities. It is vital that we work out the most constructive way forward from this juncture. The DC asks that you contact us at your earliest opportunity to discuss this further.
This correspondence is confidential between the DC and yourselves.”
I replied with this:
“Here is my statement, I have been out of the country so sorry for the delay.
In response to you saying i have broken confidentiality, i spoke to the other comrades before i decided to come to disputes as i didn’t know what to do, i was wary of the disputes committee due to recent events and the report back that sat through at conference. Also one of these comrades is a female comrade who i know had previously felt uncomfortable at the behaviour of [***] and had helped me come to terms with what had happened.”
Throughout the whole of this process the need for confidentiality was constantly repeated to me. I, as someone who had been through something horrific, was being told that I could not talk to my friends and comrades – that I must only to talk to a woman who up until this point I had very little to do with.
After sending my statement it was arranged for Rhetta and Jackie from the DC to come to my area and interview both me and the offender. At this point I believed that this was my case being heard. On the evening of the interview Rhetta and Jackie asked me to talk them through the events of the night, which I did. Some of the questions that followed included “what effect would you say drink and drugs had on you that night?” I was also asked and pushed to talk about abuse that had happened to me previously, as earlier on that night I had been emotional and had confided in the man that assaulted me. This was extremely upsetting for me during a process that was already hard enough.
There is also some of the assault that I cannot remember fully, not due to intoxication but rather that I have blocked it out. He spoke to me throughout, however while I can still hear him talking, feel it in fact, I cannot remember exactly what it was he said.
At the end of a very long and upsetting interview I was asked what I wanted to happen next. When I enquired further what was meant by that, I was asked whether I would like to make it an official complaint and have an official hearing. Up until this point I thought that this was already so and that this was part of the official hearing.
They went on further to say that it was unlikely that the DC would be able to find either way, especially taking into account the level of intoxication, without being sure of the effect it had on me (in fact I was stone cold sober by the time the assault happened, which I repeated throughout). They said that I couldn’t remember everything (in fact the only thing I couldn’t remember from the actual assault was what he had been saying to me), and that a hearing would be harder for me.
I was encouraged to drop the case, whilst being told that “it is of course your decision, you do what’s best for you”, etc. Given such a bleak choice I decided to drop the complaint. I in no way feel this decision was mine – I was basically told there was no point, something which, as I found out more later on, was most definitely true.
I feel it is worth mentioning that the interview with Rhetta and Jackie was extremely stressful for me and damaging to my already frail mental health. They made me feel as if I was ridiculous for making a complaint and too damaged a person to really assess what had happened and how to deal with it. Following the interview I fell into a week-long state of mania. This is the real effect of what the SWP’s line towards women and rape is: it damages people, it is dangerous. During the week that followed I was phoned three times by my intermediary and by members of the DC to essentially make sure I kept quiet: “If anyone asks you about the complaint or why it was dropped just say ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ and ‘it was my decision’.” Well actually I do want to talk about it and it wasn’t my decision.
I have since found out that he was able to read my statement, while I have not seen his or even heard from the DC what he had said in response. Also he was able to have a character support, who turned out to be someone not even in the party. I was offered no sort of witness, despite the fact that I listed in my statement another female comrade in the district and mentioned that they would be happy to confirm that they had not only felt uncomfortable in that man’s presence but had also, previous to the assault, mentioned to me that he was acting in a harassing manner towards me.
I feel that it is no coincidence that the DC showed favour to a male member who was very prominent in the district and was starting to make a name for himself nationally within the organisation. A male member who was sent by the district to special conference (after my complaint) – even my intermediary voted for him – on a strong pro-CC line, who then went on to be on the district committee, and who is still a visible presence at demos, meetings, etc.
The similarities in how the cases of W and X were handled and how mine was are striking, and should be proof to anyone that the Socialist Workers Party is a group that is sexist, full of bullies, and above all will cover up rape to protect its male members and reputation. Taking this on board, the SWP is counter-revolutionary and is against the socialist tradition; we cannot have a revolution without fighting for the liberation of all oppressed groups – to cover up rape is oppressing women. So anyone who is a revolutionary, a socialist, a decent human being should have nothing to do with the SWP and its abhorrent practices. Deprive them and all rape apologists of air, do not in engage in any way. They are not worth the energy of revolutionaries – in short they are scum and we need not bother with them.
If any other person wants to come forward and share their story please do, or speak to someone you feel confident speaking to – we are not in this alone. Solidarity.