Domestic Abuse Bill: AMENDMENTS from Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape, part of the Support not Separation coalition

On family courts –

Insert new clauses into Part 3: Family Proceedings following Clause 75 on cross examination:

  • Remove Section 11 (2A) of the Children and Families Act 2014 which presumes that it is always in a child’s best interest to have contact with both parents. 

RATIONALE: This has resulted in a presumption of contact for fathers regardless of any history of rape and/or Domestic Abuse. For the welfare of children to be paramount, their safety and the safety of the mother, who is usually the primary carer, must be prioritised over father’s residence and contact. Fathers who are violent to their children or their partners should not have contact with their children. Thousands of children are being harmed physically and psychologically by being forced into contact with fathers they are terrified of.  

  • Reduce the threshold of official evidence required when domestic violence is raised as an issue in the family courts.

    RATIONALE: Evidence must include reports to GP, midwife, counsellor, etc., as well as non-molestation and/or occupation order. This is even more crucial now that the level of convictions for rape and DA are at an all-time low and violent men have near impunity from prosecution. The majority of victims do not report domestic abuse or rape to the police and when they do they can expect little or no protection.

  • Remove Clause 120 in the Adoption & Children Act 2002 which extended the definition of significant harm (Children Act 1989) to include “impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another”. 

RATIONALE: This addition to the definition of significant harm was meant to protect children. It has instead been used to take children from mothers who are victims of DA, further victimising the child and the mother instead of providing the help and support they need to leave violent men. It is unbearably cruel and discriminatory. DA has become the most common reason to remove children from their mother, thus isolating children from their only protector. Violent men know this and taunt telling them, ‘Go ahead and report me and they’ll take the kids from you.’ There is evidence from the US, and we must look for evidence here, that separation from one’s mother causes more serious harm than witnessing DA. For this reason, the New York courts have ruled that children should not be removed from mothers who are victims of DA.

  • End the use of ‘parental alienation’ to remove children from their mothers. Ensure that courts take seriously children’s allegations of sexual abuse by fathers.  

RATIONALE: Children and mothers who make accusations of violence are disbelieved or dismissed even when these incidents have been reported to the police or others in authority and despite evidence of how pervasive DA is.

Mothers are routinely accused of poisoning their children’s minds when they report what the children are telling them. It is horrifying that mothers are instructed by the court to force their children, whom they know are being abused, often sexually, to have contact with the man who is abusing them. The law is supposed to protect children not rapists. Mothers who defy the court in order to protect their children risk having their children taken from them and left without protection. As a result, mothers are increasingly wary of mentioning DA.

‘Parental alienation’ is the discredited theory of Dr Richard A Gardner, a US misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic abuse and defended paedophilia. It is shocking that CAFCASS which was created to protect children is using this. It shows the impact that organisations of domestic abuse deniers have had on the family courts.

  • Prioritise implementation of Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 so that resources are made available to mothers and children facing domestic abuse, in particular access to benefits and housing, without which many women are trapped with violent men.

RATIONALE: Section 17 exists to help ensure that children are raised by their family and therefore provides for local authorities to use their resources to keep children within the family. But it is not being implemented. This is particularly outrageous given that austerity policies have targeted single mother families: over 4 million children are living in poverty, single mothers are 75% of those affected by Universal Credit, and 86% of austerity cuts have been borne by women. Section 17 is needed more than ever and could make a massive difference to DA victims. Instead huge amounts of money are spent wrenching screaming children from their mothers’ arms, causing significant and lifelong harm. An increasingly privatised industry is profiting from the pain of children and mothers. This must stop and the original purpose of the law must be adhered to.

  • Open the family courts to public scrutiny. 

RATIONALE: End the secrecy which has shielded the family courts from public scrutiny, and delayed the introduction of protections the women’s movement won in other civil and criminal courts. Transparency can be safely introduced with reference to the law protecting the anonymity of victims of sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1994. The same should be done in the family courts. In many US states family courts are open and this has not been detrimental to children.

INSERT in Part 3, Section 31W:

  • Reinstate legal aid in family cases, so that women are not forced to represent themselves.
  •  Implement Practice Direction 12j and 3AA. Do risk assessments and findings of fact whenever violence is an issue.

Proposed amendments to other parts of the Bill

INSERT in Part 1 Chapter 3, in orderto improve protection by the criminal justice system and civil courts:

  • The police should prioritise investigating crimes of violence against women over minor offences they suspect women of committing.
  • The police should arrest, charge and prosecute violent men, especially when they commit a second or third offence.

This is urgent as the rape and DA conviction rates are at rock bottom granting violent men impunity from prosecution.

Community Resolutions or Out of Court Resolutions are not appropriate for a violent crime and are dangerous.

To make police officers more accountable, take disciplinary action if a woman is murdered after repeated calls to police for help and protection.

  • End the hostile environment for immigrant women: stop women being detained and/or deported when they report DA.
  • End domestic abuse being classed as an either way offence, which results in many cases being closed after 6 months.
  • Make it easier for women to get a non-molestation order (e.g. abolish the costs) and routinely add power of arrest.

DELETE in PART 1, Ch. 4, section 54, section on polygraph conditions:

  • Delete the clause on lie detector tests, which are notoriously unreliable.

INSERT IN PART 1, Ch. 4, section 54:

  • Provide protection from the offender when he is released from prison.

INSERT in PART 1, Chapter 4, Section 56, Clause 1 where the Bill refers to housing (keeping a lifetime council tenancy).

  • Economic abuse and economic independence.
    The Bill includes economic abuse in the definition of Domestic Abuse, but to tackle economic abuse thoroughly, the Bill must also enable a woman’s economic independence from men, regardless of her social class, so that she can leave a violent man. The government must properly fund women’s vital escape routes beginning with: welfare benefits, social housing, and refuges.  

July 2019

Secret policy change by CPS cut number of rape trials, high court told

Application on behalf of women’s group follows concern over fall in number of charges

Owen Bowcott and Caelainn Barr  The Guardian  Tue 17 Mar 2020

legal challenge over alleged changes to Crown Prosecution Service policy on bringing charges in rape cases has been dismissed by the high court.

The judges, Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, and Lord Justice Singh, denied permission for the case to proceed to a full hearing on Tuesday.

The challenge by a coalition of victims’ organisation sought to prove that the CPS had raised the bar for charging suspects in rape cases.

The high court heard arguments that there had been a “precipitous drop” in the number of rape cases brought to trial due to a secret and unlawful change in policy adopted by the CPS.

The CPS adopted an internal conviction rate target of 60% of cases charged and became increasingly risk averse although it consulted with no one outside the organisation about the new approach, Phillippa Kaufmann QC told judges.

Her application on behalf of the End Violence Against Women Coalition follows concern over steep falls in rape charges and convictions in recent years at a time when an increasing number of women have been making rape complaints to police.

“This change [in policy] was brought about in secrecy and no one was told even afterwards,” Kaufmann told the court.

The changes were introduced from late 2016 after an internal review by the CPS’s director of legal services, Gregor McGill, it was alleged.

It resulted in refresher training of prosecutors that in effect abandoned the established policy of a what is known as a “merits-based approach” to assessing whether to charge suspects in rape cases, Kaufmann said.

“The easiest way to [raise the conviction rate],” she added, “is to whip out those cases that are a bit weaker … No one knew about it until it was leaked by an individual inside the CPS.”

The consequence, Kaufmann said, was that some prosecutors reverted what had been known as the bookmakers’ approach – guessing the probability of a jury convicting on the evidence and becoming reluctant to press ahead with more difficult rape cases.

But the CPS, which successfully, resisted the challenge, argued that courts should not become “an arbiter of prosecutorial policy”.

In written submissions, lawyer for the director of public prosecutions (DPP), Max Hill QC, said it was factually wrong to allege that prosecutors have now adopted a “bookmaker’s test” approach.

The CPS maintained that the courts should dismiss the claim at this preliminary stage and not proceed to a full judicial review of the arguments.

“There has not been a change in policy,” Tom Little QC, for the DPP, told the court. “The fall on conviction rates is due to a far wider range of factors involving the police that are now the subject of a government review.”

Rape victims who donated to the legal challenge, because they felt failed by the CPS, are set to see their donations go towards the institution’s legal costs.

The CPS is pursuing legal costs against the women’s rights’ charity the End Violence Against Women Coalition, and asked for a request to cap legal costs to be denied. The CPS were awarded £35,000 – £41, 000 in legal costs by judges ruling on the request for a judicial review into the claims.

The coalition’s director, Sarah Green, said: “We have no regrets about bringing this case. It was the right thing to do, and it was entirely necessary to challenge our justice system institutions when they are failing to keep women safe and deliver access to justice.

“We have been approached by so many women who have been let down by the CPS as we prepared this case. We know there are really serious problems. But instead of working with us, the CPS chose to fight us.

“It is a long way from the kind of leadership we need in our public institutions … The CPS is arguably failing to keep with the times on expectations for justice after sexual violence. The situation as it is cannot hold, it amounts to the effective decriminalisation of rape.”

The charity received hundreds of donations, many for £10 and £20, via a crowd justice campaign ahead of the hearing. Many messages left with the donations were from women who said they had been raped but denied justice. One donor wrote: “Having been through the system myself and being failed on every level I so wish you every success.” Under the anonymous donation of £10, someone simply wrote: “I never got justice.”

The legal challenge also received £10,000 from the family of Jill Saward, the Ealing rape victim who became a leading figure in the fight against sexual violence.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, who supported the claim, said: “We are deeply, deeply disappointed that [the judges] didn’t see there was a basis on which the case arguable.

“We feel they were just not prepared to grapple with all the detail and ultimately they saw it as a factual dispute. The court was not prepared to get involved.”

Wistrich said they were considering appealing against the ruling at the court of appeal. “We don’t see this as a loss because we think we won in the court of public opinion.”

On the heavy costs of £41,000 imposed on the claimants, she added: “ It’s astounding that the CPS have pushed for as much in costs against a small women’s charity.”

Keir Starmer’s record on rape

Camden New Journal  Letters  6 February 2020

The record on rape

We take issue with the letter from MARTIN PLAUT of NW5 (‘Errors in attacks on Starmer’, January 30).  

He claims that rape “is one of the issues [Sir Keir] feels most strongly about and has worked on most assiduously. His determination has been applauded by the victims of these crimes. When he left office as DPP in 2013 prosecutions for these appalling offences were at their highest.” 

Sir Keir has been applauded by some, but others, including ourselves who work with many victims, have criticised his refusal to end the Crown Prosecution Service policy of prosecuting rape survivors who are disbelieved by the police.

[Cut from the letter we submitted: Such cases are similar to the shocking prosecution of a young woman in Cyprus who reported rape by a group of Israeli men but was forced to retract and was herself jailed.]

We have worked with a number of women the British police bullied to retract: some did, others refused but all were treated as criminals.

One woman raped at age 15 was charged with lying when police claimed to have found no sperm on her T-shirt where her rapist had ejaculated. We helped get a second investigation by another police force who found the sperm and the man was finally prosecuted. She was saved from prison and later sued the police for £20,000.

Many are not so fortunate and face long sentences – often longer than convicted rapists; one woman is in prison for 10 years. Another woman, attacked by strangers on her way home, was given a three year sentence while evidence of the assault was lost or not pursued; her brother had complained of police racism – did that play a part?

We raised such cases at a meeting with Sir Keir Starmer when he was Director of Public Prosecutions (2008-2013), demonstrating how the prosecution of disbelieved victims skews police investigations and undermines women’s ability to report rape.

To no avail – the policy remains.

That police and CPS have got worse since Sir Keir left is not evidence that he was good.

Their decision that victims must hand over mobile phones and social media history, medical and counselling records, which are disclosed to their attacker, has of course led to a further drop in rape prosecutions.

In most British cases it is not the rapists who are on trial but their victims.

Add to this austerity which has made women and children more vulnerable to violence, and has cut escape routes – refuges, benefits, etc.

When under 3 per cent of reported rapes lead to a conviction, rapists have almost complete impunity. Sir Keir didn’t feel strongly enough against rape to confront police sexism, racism and other prejudices, and press for better investigations when he had the power to do so.

LISA LONGSTAFF

Women Against Rape

Fall in rape charges despite rise in reports is ‘creating new victims’

Dame Vera Baird QC warns over failure to prosecute as charge rate drops from 6.8% to 4.2%

PA Media

Thu 29 Aug 2019 00.01 BST

 Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner, called for the government to act quickly in its review of the handling of complaints.

The criminal justice system is putting more people at risk by failing to tackle potential serial rapists, the victims’ commissioner has warned.

Dame Vera Baird expressed the concerns as official figures showed that reports of rape are rising but the number of charges being brought has fallen.

Rapes reported to police rose by almost 13,000 to 54,045 in 2017-18, compared with 41,186 the previous year, with 11,913 attacks not recorded as crimes, up from 8,624.

The overall charge rate fell from 6.8% to 4.2%, according to data recorded by public bodies, gathered by the Rape Monitoring Group and published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Baird said the government needed to act quickly in its review of how complaints were handled to make sure victims received justice: “The criminal justice system is letting down current victims and creating new victims by failing to tackle potential serial rapists.”

Only one in every 50 cases results in a conviction. How can this be justice?

She added: “More complainants are coming forward, but fewer cases are being prosecuted and only one in every 50 cases results in a conviction. How can this be justice? We know that nearly four in five victims of sexual assault choose not to report the crimes committed against them. How can we ever give these victims the confidence to report when so few cases ever secure a conviction?

“We need to understand the reasons behind this failure. It is in part down to the treatment of complainants by police and prosecutors – for example, failing to update them on investigations or making intrusive and disproportionate demands on their personal data. We also know that the treatment of complainants in the courtroom can cause trauma and distress.”

The data was recorded by bodies including the Home Office, the Office for National Statistics, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), covering all 43 police forces in England and Wales and the British Transport Police. It was previously published separately.

The CPS decided not to charge any suspects in just under half the cases. For 24,280 of the offences there were “evidential difficulties”, such as the victim not supporting a prosecution. There were 2,238 offences that resulted in a charge or summons, with the outcome for 6,647 not yet recorded.

According to the latest MoJ figures, the average prison sentence for rape is about nine years.

Rebecca Hitchen, campaigns manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the figures were “truly shocking” and evidence of “just how broken the system is”.

She added: “This is a crisis and it needs the highest level of political attention. We urge the prime minister, the home secretary and the justice secretary to get fully involved in the ongoing rape review, from which very little has been heard. We urge them to demand answers as to what is going on. They should also make clear, public reassurances to women, and men, who are considering reporting rape, that meaningful work will be done to improve access to justice.”

A CPS spokesman said: “The growing gap between the number of rapes recorded and the number of cases going to court is a great cause of concern. That’s why the CPS is taking part in a system-wide review to scrutinise how these cases are being handled.” He added that the “significant fall in the volume of referrals from the police” had contributed to the drop in rape charges.

Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary, said it was vital that statistics about rape were made as transparent as possible and she hoped the data would help the criminal justice system do all it could to “prevent this most heinous of crimes”.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/29/fall-in-charges-despite-rise-in-reports-is-creating-new-victims

Our response to Guardian report showing a significant fall in prosecutions in England and Wales

Revealed: collapse in rape cases that end up in court, 27 July 2019

• It is shocking that after decades of campaigning by women and repeated official claims that scandals like Savile, Worboys and Rotherham are things of the past, we learn that rape charging has collapsed even further. It is not because victims don’t come forward. There is “a sharp rise in reports of rape made to police … from 2015 to 2019, the number of rape claims … rose by 61%, from 35,847 to 57,882”. Two women a week, many of them mothers, are killed by partners or ex-partners – usually after reporting multiple assaults and threats which go unheeded by police. Rape and domestic violence terrorise women daily, yet perpetrators can count on almost complete impunity.

How much does the latest drop in charging have to do with the abolition of specialist rape investigation units and “digital strip search”? We and many others, including the information commissioner and victims commissioner, objected to this indiscriminate download of victims’ social media. Big Brother Watch claims the police powers used against victims are more extensive than those used against crime suspects; lawyers question whether they are even legal.

Boris Johnson, who as London mayor made sweeping cuts to the police service, now wants to recruit 20,000 additional officers. Will any of them be used to police the terrorism of rape and domestic violence? Or will they be deployed to repress us when we protest against lack of action on sexist or racist violence, climate change, or child poverty?
Cristel Amiss Black Women’s Rape Action Project 
Lisa Longstaff Women Against Rape

Assange: UN Rapporteur on Torture is right to be alarmed at the manipulation of rape allegations

For over four decades we have campaigned to get rapists convicted. But the pursuit of Julian Assange is not driven by any concerns about rape but by US government pressure to punish him for his Wikileaks exposes on war crimes. Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel and Degrading Treatment, is right to be alarmed.  

At the time of the original allegations against Julian Assange, we pointed to the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued. (Guardian 19 Dec 2010 and 23 August 2012). It is unlike any other rape investigation we have seen anywhere.

The low UK rate of charging men for reported rape (figures just published show it has dropped even further from 14% to 2.5% in four years) – resulting largely from negligent and biased investigations and prosecutions, speaks volumes about how rape is generally dealt with.  Only one in 65 reports result in a summons or charge.  The police excuse for this is that they are overwhelmed and understaffed.

But every resource has been thrown at the Assange case, at great cost to the taxpayer for which he has then been blamed.  

It is not for us to decide whether or not any allegation made against Mr Assange is true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don’t have all the facts and what has been said has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims’ right to anonymity and defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.

In this case the judicial process was corrupted from the beginning and justice denied both to accusers and accused. On the one hand, the names of the women were circulated on the internet; they were trashed, accused of setting a “honey trap”, their allegations dismissed as “not real rape”. On the other hand, Mr Assange has been treated by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged.

Swedish and British prosecutors are responsible for how the women’s allegations have been handled. As with every rape prosecution, the women are not in charge of the case, the state is.

Julian Assange has always made clear that he was available for any investigation into the allegations, and he was in Sweden during the first investigation which cleared him. He also made clear that his only concern was not to be extradited to the US from Sweden if he returned there, and that’s why he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. Sweden refused to give guarantees on the grounds that no such request from the US had been made.   

But as soon as Julian Assange was taken out of the Ecuadorian embassy after a change of government, the US initiated extradition proceedings and laid 17 charges including for ‘espionage’.

Nils Melzer warns of the implications of the witch-hunt against Mr Assange in the course of documenting the effects of his forced confinement, now imprisonment. Mr Melzer wrote in his Op Ed:

…Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus a legal precedent is being set…

We are glad Mr Melzer revised some of his comments on the women’s allegations, but his overall point remains. Mr Assange is being publicly vilified in order to divert attention from the state’s revenge and silencing. We are alarmed by the precedent this sets for journalists and whistle-blowers everywhere. We oppose torture and the death penalty. We cannot condone the way rape allegations against an individual continue to be used to pursue a political agenda intent on hiding rape, torture and murder committed by the state.

Having worked with thousands of rape victims who are seeking asylum from rape and other forms of torture, we have met nothing but obstruction from British governments. Time after time, they have accused women of lying and deported them with no concern for their safety. So don’t tell us they are concerned about victims of rape.

Where is the campaign demanding justice for the rapes and murders Wikileaks exposed? Who will speak up for these victims if whistle-blowers are silenced?

In 2004, together with Black Women’s Rape Action Project, we wrote to women MPs about the war crimes and torture, including rape, under US-UK occupation, that were being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We received no reply.

Chelsea Manning (currently re-imprisoned despite President Obama having commuted her sentence) was able to use Wikileaks to expose the extensive cover up of rape, other sexual violence and murder, including of women and children, by the US military in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. Do these victims not count?

Both Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning have already suffered years of isolation, confinement, imprisonment, public vilification and humiliation, longer and more shaming than many men convicted of rape.

Once again women’s fury and frustration at the injustices we face, is being manipulated by governments for their own purposes. Sending someone to their death or life imprisonment and torture in the US for ‘espionage’ isn’t justice for rape.

More than 1,000 reports of sexual abuse and harassment at UK McDonald’s, campaigners say

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/mcdonalds-sexual-harassment-protests-abuse-workers-a8937186.html

Exclusive: ‘He texted me to say he was at home alone with just the kids. I just blocked his number. That resulted in him pulling his pants down in the stockroom where there were no cameras,’ says McDonald’s employee

The president of the UK’s largest independent trade union in the food sector says workers in McDonald’s across the UK had told them sexual harassment is commonplace ( Getty )

McDonald’s workers in the UK are being subjected to a “toxic culture” of sexual harassment which has seen at least 1,000 women abused and predatory employees moved to different stores rather than sacked, campaigners have told The Independent.

Allegations range from managers making repeated sexual comments, brushing up against staff and discussing sexual desires, to abusing their access to workers’ contact details in order to send texts and explicit photos, and even offering better hours and promotion in return for sex.

Workers at branches across the UK have detailed a catalogue of abuse and harassment to the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the country’s largest independent trade union in the food sector.

Ian Hodson, president of the union, alleged complaints were “swept under the carpet”, workers were “victimised” for complaining, and added that some had been paid compensation on the condition they sign non-disclosure agreements.

A spokesperson for UK McDonald’s responded by urging anyone with any concerns around sexual harassment to speak to their manager or contact their confidential employee helpline to allow them to “investigate immediately”.

A spokesperson for the BFAWU said: “Sexual harassment is very prevalent. There is a toxic culture. Predatory employees operate with impunity. I would not say sexual harassment and sexual assault is happening in every store, but where a predatory manager or culture arises then McDonald’s is doing far too little to address it. 

“Workers are dependent on their hours to survive so it creates a power imbalance when a staff or senior staff or manager is a predator. There are very little checks and balances on them because of that power structure. When people make a complaint, managers do not deal with the procedure as they should. They often brush it off rather than say, ‘That should not be happening, we need to start an investigation into this’. We have heard of several situations where managers accused of sexual harassment have been moved.”

The union spokesperson estimated that over 1,000 female workers had experienced sexual harassment at McDonald’s in the UK – explaining this figure is based on conversations the union has had with workers across the country.

“It is rare for McDonald’s workers to file grievances about sexual harassment,” he added. “This might be because they do not recognise the behaviour of sexual harassment or they might not know the process for filing a grievance. They might also feel shame or are often concerned that they will not be believed.”

The spokesperson noted victims of sexual harassment might also be put off reporting abuse due to fear of retaliation or being bullied, worries about being isolated or further isolated in the workplace and concerns around the perpetrator being a friend of the manager. They will often try and manage the situation themselves by avoiding the perpetrator or asking colleagues to keep an eye out for them, he added. 

He noted that a very small proportion of McDonald’s workers are union members – explaining that McDonald’s does not recognise the union.

The union organised the first McDonald’s strikes in British history back in September 2017. It is calling for a £10-per-hour minimum wage and guaranteed work hours, as well as for McDonald’s to recognise their union.

A female McDonald’s employee from London said she had endured sexual harassment from a more senior colleague at a store where she has worked at for a number of years. 

She said: “I got approached by a manager to me who would make sly comments like asking if I was up for any fun while his wife was going to be away. He would say that in the workplace. He eventually got hold of my phone number from the system or from another employee. He text me to say he was at home alone with just the kids. I just blocked his number. That resulted in him pulling his pants down in the stockroom where there were no cameras. He held his penis and said, ‘Is this worth waiting for?’ 

“After I complained, a manager said I better have proof of what I’m saying he did because if I was saying this about her, she would use her life savings on getting me done for slander.”

The employee added that she walked out in the middle of a shift after learning that her harasser had been sending inappropriate texts to another female member of staff. 

The union said her attempts to seek help over many months were not taken seriously – explaining that she had asked colleagues for help and approached senior colleagues, but was largely left to manage the situation herself.

This culminated in her writing a formal letter about what was happening to human resources – with it leading to what the union described as an inadequate “investigation” meeting being carried out months later. Following the initial “investigation” she was expected to continue working alongside her harasser.

She subsequently had a panic attack at work for which she was taken to hospital, the BFAWU said, adding that she has been unable to return to work since.

The employee said there was one manager there who had been moved to another store after being accused of sexually harassing girls – adding that it “got to the point” where there were no more stores for him to go to and he got sacked.

“He would make inappropriate comments, make girls feel uncomfortable and try breaking relationships between crew members up,” she added. “What I hope happens is McDonald’s and my managers listen. We need a zero sexual harassment policy. McDonald’s care if you give out one too many sauces or one too many napkins in the drive-through but they need to address harassment. There are a lot more women suffering sexual harassment than any of us can imagine.”

She said she was in touch with people from a number of different McDonald’s stores and came across many people in her own store who said they had been sexually harassed at other stores.

She added: “I know 20 or 30 specific incidents of sexual harassments across different stores in the UK that people have told me. After a while you see a pattern – people say, ‘The manager pulled me in the freezer, in the toilets, stock room.’ Basically, wherever there is no camera, and obviously a manager is going to know exactly where all the cameras are, rather than a crew member who has been working there for three days. It gets to the point when people get so upset and furious with it they end up walking out and losing their jobs or lashing out and getting fired. Imagine if it was your daughter or your son.”

Another female McDonald’s worker who worked at a store from 2011 to 2013 said the “banter” was “quite pervy and flirtatious”.

“There was someone in the kitchen who smacked my bum,” she said. “He was persistent with other girls. I was not aware of any protocol if sexual harassment were to happen. I would have been careful who I reported it to as they were keen to cut corners there. I would have queried who would have dealt with it correctly. I would not have gone to the managers and would have gone to head office.”

The former worker, who worked there from the ages of 16 to 18, said one of her colleagues was sexually assaulted by a male colleague, who was in his early thirties, on a night out. Her friend, who was just 17, was “groped” by him.

“She did not tell management,” she said. ”She felt ashamed. She was so young she might not have even had the wherewithal to think she could report something like this.”

A survey by Unite union from January of last year found sexual harassment was rampant in the hospitality industry – discovering nine out of 10 hospitality staff have experienced sexual harassment at work. Of those who reported they were sexually harassed at work, more than half said the perpetrators were members of the public and another 22 per cent said they were harassed at the hands of a manager. A further eight out of 10 surveyed said they witnessed others being sexually harassed at work.

When asked whether their work had an anti-sexual harassment policy in place, 77 per cent said no or they did not know. Some 60 per cent said they were unsure or lacked faith in their management to deal with a sexual harassment complaint.

Dr Hannah Bows, of the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse at Durham University, said: “Lots of studies have shown sexual harassment is a huge problem. The majority of women will experience it at some point. If you are on a zero-hour contract or in temporary work, it is harder to report as you may face losing your job. Women are often blamed or a common response is getting rid of them.

“Also, sometimes women normalise sexual harassment because we know they experience it in every part of life – from on the way to work on the Tube to sexual harassment at work to at the gym after work. It can be difficult to pinpoint whether or not what you are experiencing is sexual harassment because it is part of everyday intrusions.” 

McDonald’s employs more than 120,000 people, according to its website. Its gender pay gap report from 2018 states there are 1,290 restaurants across the country that are owned and operated by either McDonald’s or their franchisees – as well as explaining women account for over half of the total workforce.

McDonald’s response to the “Migration Advisory Committee – Call for Evidence” states over 80 per cent of their employees are UK nationals. Most of the remainder (around 12 per cent) are EU nationals. 

More than two dozen current and former McDonald’s workers filed sexual harassment complaints in the US last month to challenge what they claim is widespread misconduct at the fast food giant. The allegations include indecent exposure, groping, propositions for sex and lewd comments – behaviour that reportedly took place at both corporate and franchise stores in 20 cities.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s in the UK said: “There is absolutely no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind in society or at McDonald’s. We deeply regret that the employee’s case was not treated with the sensitivity and gravity it warrants. This is not acceptable and our investigation into the case is ongoing.

“We have long-standing policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment – we regularly review and evolve these and we’ve recently rolled out a new training programme and guidance.

“We have an ongoing commitment to educating and raising awareness at all levels of our organisation – encouraging open conversations and communication – and we will continue to prioritise this. We take any allegations extremely seriously.”

They said the company has always strived to create a positive experience in its restaurants and create an environment where everyone feels respected and valued – adding that McDonald’s is committed to a culture that is respectful to all of its employees and customers. 

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SEXUAL HARASSMENT |  MCDONALD’S |  BAKERS |  FOOD AND ALLIED WORKERS UNION

New report on military abuse

On Monday 15 July, the World at One on BBC Radio 4, considered a newly published official report They also interview Donna, a survivor of serious sexual assault in the British Army who has worked with WAR for several years. Listen to the report by logging onto BBC Iplayer, find the programme and then skip to the particular segment at 16’06”.

WAR addressing Baker’s Union annual conference 2019

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union has been working with WAR on an inspirational campaign to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. They invited Lisa to speak at their annual conference in Southport on 10 June 2019, about the campaign. Watch the film here on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_50u7Ay-3I

After the speech there was a standing ovation. The BFAWU represent workers in fast food and hospitality industries and is a leading campaign taking strike actions against precarious contracts and low pay. We know that benefit cuts and poverty wages make women and girls more vulnerable to sexual violence, including abuse of power by employers. Read more about their amazing campaigns and strikes at https://www.bfawu.org/blog and https://www.bfawu.org/

New police disclosure consent forms

Update:

See Lisa Longstaff of WAR interviewed on SKY News, 1 May 2019

Good account by anon survivor who went through three trials:

Giving my phone to police after my rape left me in limbo feeling violated

And another survivor’s account:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/29/sexual-assault-case-dropped-refused-police-phone-rape

Also, see good article by Dawn Foster here:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/29/rape-victims-phones-police-guidelines

WAR’s comment:

There’s a lot in the news today about the new ‘national consent forms’ victims of rape are being asked to sign authorising the police to trawl through their social media – phone, internet, computer, etc. – when investigating the rape. The CPS threatens to close any cases where the victim wants to put restrictions on what material they can access. We were interviewed on TV Sky News at 12.10pm.

This is closely related to the established practice of trawling through medical health records, school records and any records of sexual behaviour/sexual history. This irrelevant information is commonly used to discredit allegations and stop the case going to court or to trash you in court when you give evidence. Rape survivors already refer to their trial as a second rape – authorising new indiscriminate social media evidence will make it even worse. Some victims are calling it a ‘digital strip search’.

The gathering of evidence should focus on the violence which has been reported between x and y, not on who you slept with or sent texts to in the past, or whether you were assaulted as a child.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service can’t be trusted to judge what is ‘reasonable intrusion’ or ‘reasonable lines of inquiry’ when their record shows how sexist they are – that is why rape convictions are at an all time low (6% of reported rape) and falling.

Police and CPS have a duty to disclose information to the defence, including where it undermines the prosecution. That some cases may have collapsed because they didn’t disclose information which should have been disclosed is no reason to institute further trawling of irrelevant material which will inevitably be used by the defence to discredit victims.

We don’t see victims of other crimes (like burglary which also often happens in private without witnesses) treated with this assumption of suspicion, so why us?

We have campaigned for years for rape and sexual assault to be taken seriously; this is a throwback to police treating victims as suspects (without even the protections granted to suspects) and blaming us rather than their biased investigations for the low conviction rate. They want to put us back in our boxes and stop us reporting and getting justice.

This measure (like the proposal to bring in anonymity for rape suspects which crops up regularly) must be defeated.

For more info see: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/29/new-police-disclosure-consent-forms-could-free-rape-suspects and most of the other national papers.