Women Warn of Sexual Harassment From Lecherous Lawmakers in Whatsapp Group

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The Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben is seen in central London on June 11. An all-women Whatsapp group recorded reports of sexual harassment allegations perpetrated by British politicians. Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Women working for the British government and the Houses of Parliament have been warning each other against potential sexual harassment at the hands of their bosses, lawmakers, and government aides in a Whatsapp group.

After allegations of sexual assault and harassment rocked Silicon Valley and Hollywood executives—as well as former and current inhabitants of the White House—tremors of earth-shattering allegations were felt at the heart of British democracy.

The group recorded a range of reports including allegations of a government minister "groping" during parties, an MP "demanding his staff to buy sex toys as gifts," and senior lawmakers "having sex with staff in Parliamentary offices," as reported in The Sun newspaper, which published some of the messages on Friday with the name of the alleged perpetrator redacted.

"[Redacted] Very Handsy."

"[Redacted] Groped my arse at a drinks party."

"Don't get in the lift with [redacted]."

The group was reportedly created to warn new hires about well-known cases of misbehaving bosses and politicians. Members used expressions like "not safe in taxis," which was used by mothers of debutantes to label young men who could not be trusted to share a ride home alone with their daughters; men with a reputation for sexual harassment or assault.

"For years we have all looked out for each other. It's like, 'So-and-so is hiring, but it can't be a woman for him'," one source told the British tabloid.

The British public isn't new to sex scandals involving their lawmakers. In recent years, allegations of historic child sex abuse were posthumously moved against several politicians, including former prime minister Sir Edward Heath, former home secretary Leon Brittan and lawmaker Sir Cyril Smith.

Labour Party politician Simon Danczuk, who had made a name for himself leading a campaign to investigate these child abuse allegations, was suspended from his party in 2015 following reports he sent sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old who was seeking a job at his MP office. In an interview to The Sun a few days later, he said younger women were his "Achilles heel."

The Whatsapp group's existence reveals how widespread and deeply-ingrained such predatory behaviour is among the halls of power. One Labour party politician referred to the Danczuk case in a series of Twitter posts last week, expressing frustration at the inability of all parties to act against alleged perpetrators.

"Stony silence when I raised inappropriate behaviour and worse by MPs at the Parliamentary Labour Party. ALL parties [have] been covering up," John Mann MP wrote on October 19.

"Simon Danczuk was removed as a Labour MP for inappropriate texts. A much more serious case was reported and ignored. Why?" he added, promising to report a fellow lawmaker to the party leadership for inappropriate behavior toward a young woman.

I will be naming a Labour MP who behaved appalling towards a young woman to the chief whip and leader Why was her complaint ignored before?

— John Mann (@JohnMannMP) October 19, 2017

Mann has long been raising the issue of sexual assault in Westminster. Giving evidence to the House of Commons' Standards Committee as part of a review into the Code of Conduct binding MPs, Mann called for the establishment of a whistleblowing service to encourage reporting of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior.

"In here [Westminster] there are alleged sexual assaults by current members of Parliament and nowhere for people to go, or they don't feel confident in going. That's a major issue," he said at the time, quoted in The Independent.

A BBC survey of sexual harassment in the workplace published this week showed that 63 percent of women and 79 percent of men who are sexually harassed do not report the claim to anyone. The poll surveyed 2,031 British adults and found that 53 percent of female and a fifth of male respondents experienced inappropriate sexual harassment, ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault, at a place of work or study.

I agree with https://t.co/RHSkTveXaq on how @UKLabour can support members who are victims of domestic/sexual abuse https://t.co/vYqt2kLUrH

— Sarah Champion (@SarahChampionMP) October 25, 2017

A group of Labour Party women launched an anonymous online form called "LabourToo" this week, seeking to collect "experiences of domestic or sexual abuse, harassment or discrimination in the Labour Party" to compile a report to share among senior party members.

The initiative is the latest example of female lawmakers reacting to the success of the social media hashtag #MeToo in opening up a conversation about sexism and sexual misconduct in the workplace.

Members of the European Parliament held a session this week sharing their own experiences, holding papers with the hashtag written across it. The one-hour debate was however, poorly attended, with only 57 of the 750 members—most of them women—present in the Parliament, as the German news agency Deutsche Welle reported.

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