When Sir Michael Fallon resigned from his role as Defence Secretary, he made the following statement, “the culture has changed over the years, what might have been acceptable 10, 15 years ago is certainly not acceptable now”.
I’m not going to comment on the behaviour that Sir Michael Fallon is referring to, but I will say this, sexual, racial harassment, or discrimination has never ever been acceptable.
The perpetrators were protected by a clique of power and privilege.
The only people it is acceptable, are people that share three common traits – power, privilege and entitlement. Take away any of these traits and the abuse does not happen. Let me share two personal examples.
The first example relates to a work Christmas party. A female colleague of mine was worse for wear; I could see a couple of guys attempting to inappropriately grab her.
I approached my colleague and asked if she wanted a lift home. She said yes, and I drove her home.
When I got to her house, I asked for her keys and took her inside, and then left. I locked the door, posted the keys through the letter box and went home.
When I returned to work, a number of rumours were flying around, with graphic references being made to my ethnicity and anatomy.
Both men and women wanted to know if I had done “the deed” without any respect for their own female colleague.
When I told them I was disturbed with their thinking, they said I was “soft in the head” and had missed an opportunity.
The second example relates to systematic racial abuse that I was subject to at the hands of one of my employers. This was proven beyond any doubt, and had caused me considerable mental and physical illness.
I had to leave my position. Those perpetrators were protected by a clique of power and privilege. I still recall when the abuse was taking place; I accepted it as normal, that somehow it was my own fault.
One former colleague of mine even stated “I deserved it” because I had the audacity to complain.
Since the #MeToo campaign and the confidence of victims to come forward, Westminster claims that it will now develop a robust grievance policy to support victims, I can assure you that this policy will not make any difference – if the clique and culture the victim complains about is also administering the processes too – the power-balance will be even greater against the victim.
The only way victims will be supported is A) publicly hold to account those people who abuse power and privilege, and b) ensure the grievance process is administered by someone independent.
If this does not happen, I can assure you the culture Sir Michael Fallon refers to will remain acceptable.