The Daily Mail and sexual harassment: a statement

Today the Mail on Sunday published an article about sexist remarks made to Kate Bradley by a Unite staff member and her complaint about them. Kate worked until recently for rs21 as our organiser. Here we publish her statement about the article, with the endorsement of the rs21 Steering Group.

Graffiti reads Women Deserve Better

Photo: Devon Buchanan, flickr, Creative Commons (detail)

I woke up this morning to discover that the Mail on Sunday had published a story about a complaint I made to Unite several months ago about one of Unite’s staff making sexist remarks. I don’t yet know who leaked my complaint, which was intended for an internal audience in Unite only. Leaking my complaint shows a deep disrespect for me and my safety. I did not want it leaked, especially not to a newspaper known for their sexism and their complete disregard of women’s rights. It is clear that the Mail is trying to use my complaint to undermine Unite, Jeremy Corbyn and the left, which is a totally cynical and unsanctioned use of my words.

When the Mail contacted me, I said I did not wish to speak to them but supplied a comment, of which they only printed one line. My full comment was this:

‘I submitted a complaint and it was dealt with efficiently by Unite. While sexism pervades society at every level, these incidents will continue to occur, but in this case Unite dealt with my complaint professionally and sympathetically and I remain a member of the union. I would like to ask that if you choose to publish, you do not publish my name or any identifying details in the article please.’

Against my explicit wishes, the Mail published not only my name, but more identifying information: my age, my hometown and specific details of my complaint. In printing my details in full, the Mail proved that it doesn’t care in the slightest about people who have experienced sexual harassment. Printing this story serves as a second disempowerment, since it means that the incident itself has been dredged up again, and I fear a backlash against me in the press for reporting the incident in the first place. I have already been called a ‘snowflake’ and criticised by Mail readers for standing up to sexism.

What my complaint and Unite’s response to it should prove is that it is possible for cases like this to be handled well, in ways which empower and protect those reporting them. Where my complaint had the potential to bring about some positive change, its reprinting in the Mail for cynical purposes serves to entrench the problem, since it may deter women who have been sexually harassed from reporting what has happened. I encourage anyone who is put off to stand their ground nevertheless – and can only ask whoever leaked this information to be more respectful of the consent of others in future.

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