Domestic Violence and International Women’s day RMT

Today I would like to show my solidarity with women all over the world on International Women’s day and to raise the issue of domestic violence against women. The RMT have released a model domestic violence policy for the transport industry which I hope gets rolled out to every employer.

I’m Caroline Leneghan, I’m a member of the RMT and assistant Branch Secretary of my RMT branch.
Until recently I was in a relationship with the RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley. During the relationship I experienced physical and mental domestic violence which made me feel hopeless to challenge. In January I reported a violent assault to the police that took place the previous year. On this occasion he kicked a pot of paint at me, threw me around by my hair and pinned me to the floor repeatedly punching me in the face. The extent of my injuries meant I couldn’t go out for weeks. I had severe bruising and swelling to my face and body and he had pulled out clumps of my hair. I have decided to make a public statement about this because of his public position in the union and because I want to encourage other women to come forward who have faced similar abuse.

Additionally, as I am a member of the RMT I felt that it was important to raise my assault with the RMT. I believe that he will continue to perpetrate abuse and is a threat to female members. I want to continue my activism within the union but I do not feel safe to do so unless this matter is dealt with properly.

When I raised the assault with the union, I was subjected to what is known as as ‘victim blaming’. I was distressed and astonished at the questions I was asked and the investigating officer RMT Senior AGS Mick Cash displayed a total lack of respect and sensitivity, and a lack of understanding of domestic violence. Mick Cash tried to make a link between my mental health and the assault and deemed it appropriate to inquire about my personal history, but has not deemed it necessary to look into Steve’s, despite the fact that it is his behaviour that is being called into question and not mine. The investigatior attempted to focus his attention on anything about me which could exonerate or mitigate Steve’s behaviour.

I was also shocked that Mick Cash asked me to explain how someone of Steve Hedley’s build and proficient at boxing did not cause me more injuries. The investigator also accused me of causing the injuries myself. It is outrageous that when a woman reports an assault it would be considered feasible that she severely beat up her own face and further to also attempt to make a link with her mental health is collusion with the tactics of manipulation that abusers use to silence their victims. I felt degraded and that I had done something ‘wrong’ in reporting the attack.

These actions contribute to a culture where perpetrators of violence are never punished for their behaviour. It is a well known fact that women do not come forward when they have faced abuse because they fear the treatment they will get. Since receiving help from Victim Support I have learnt that it is common for perpetrators of domestic abuse to deflect blame for their actions onto their victims and attempting to discredit their claims and to shame them into remaining silent.

I think it is important to say that I am a proud member of the RMT because I thought it was committed to fighting for justice and equality for all workers. I had hoped that it would take seriously a claim against a senior elected representative and treat me with respect when I have made such a serious allegation. I am shocked and saddened that instead I have had to undergo a character assassination. No aspect of my life has been spared from scrutiny, using any detail, no matter how sensitive, used in a horrible and insensitive manner to undermine my claim.

I am writing this because I feel it is imperative that all organisations on the left take a look at themselves and question whether they are doing all they can to support their female members and fight sexism and abuse, in all its guises. I believe that we need strong unions and organisations like the RMT to fight all forms of inequality in society. It cannot do this if it allows sexism to go unchallenged and it fails to investigate its elective representatives seriously.

Women do not have equality in the labour movement or the left. This is a struggle and a fight that goes on everyday at work/ in our unions/ at home/ in meetings, etc. To women; we are what militant trade unionists look like. The labour movement continues to heroises a macho, aggressive archetype of what a good trade unionist looks like.
Recently highlighted problems on the left (e.g. the SWP rape case handling) have demonstrated the need for radical change. A support group made up of women from the left and labour movement to support women and challenging abuse and sexism should be set up.

In the past week my case against him was dropped by the police due to falling foul of their timescale for submitting a complaint. Steve has made an official statement to the RMT that the case was dropped and he was found innocent and exonerated. This is completely untrue. The investigating officer said the CPS would not prosecute because the incident had not happened in the past 6 months. Furthermore, I have been told that, had I reported it within 6 months, they would have had enough evidence to charge him with common assault. But due to the lapse in time, they instead had to arrest him on suspicion of ABH. However, the CPS sets a very high bar for chances of conviction (I was informed that they will only bring forward to trial cases that they believe have a 90 per cent chance of conviction).

Please note: *trigger warning*. I’ve included these photos because I feel I need to show people how ludicrous his story that I beat myself up is.

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If you would like to contact me please email leneghancaroline@gmail.com

85 thoughts on “Domestic Violence and International Women’s day RMT

  1. Solidarity,Caroline and with all women standing for true equality and against violence against women,most of which comes from men.As a man,a revolutionary socialist,trades unionist and as a social worker of approximately 40 years(now retired)i saw and heard the impact of violence against women week by week.i was indeed proud amongst other things to work in men against sexism and similar groups groups and to actively support the Zero Tolerance campaign amongst criminal justice agencies,to raise rape/violence convictions about a decade ago but equally dissappointed in its failure and indeed its reversal.it is my view that men need to take active part in ending all male violence not least as it is in all our interests.such violence tears all our lives apart,but first must be the women and children who are its 1st and brunt victims.all of us should be able to go about our lives without either threat or reality of violence.a 1st step is to believe women and children(although i recognise this remains problematic).There is NO justification for the style of questioning described here and elsewhere in relation to other recent events.I agree that women don’t just need safe”spaces”but the right and support to organise in their self defence.We ought to seek a way of dealing with these issues which are easier for women(although being easy many never be possible in complex human situations and in dealing with painful experiences-i intend no pun here).The difficulties however are no excuse for not addressing them and in supporting our sisters in any way appropriate.with love and rage……

    Reply
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  3. Thank you for coming forward and writing about your experience. Women all over the world go through the same humiliation and suppression about male violence. We need to stand together, uncover the truth and let the world see what abuse looks and feels like.

    Reply
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  5. I am so sorry you are having to go through this, and that yet again the left shows it is an unsafe place for women to be, riddled with victim blaming and silencing.

    Anyone worth a second thought believes you and would always believe women who take the brave step of speaking about this publicly.

    Reply
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  14. I’m sorry his happened to you and thank you for shedding light on your experience. Sometimes I think it’s ridiculous to consider this the revolutionary class of society, if you want to call it snobbery it’s snobbery from below, workers have more to lose from revolution than the dispossessed, socially excluded, defined as incompatible humans, introverts, artists and visionaries, they have more to lose also from female emancipation from the patriarchy of the Western family unit.

    Reply
  15. Not surprised by your treatment but angry for you and pleased that you have shared this with us as it will challenge many and change some.
    Hope it brings you some inspiring support too.

    Reply
  16. Sorry the brocialists threw you under the bus the way they do to women whenever it’s a choice between upholding women’s human rights or upholding men’s unearned advantage. I believe you.

    Reply
  17. As a victim of domestic violence myself , thank you for speaking out. I am a rmt member and I support you. Take care and be brave xx

    Reply
  18. As a man I consider any domestic violence is abhorrent. I congratulate you on having the strength to speak out about it. Your treatment by the RMT in their subsequent investigation was disgusting to say the least and smacks of the old ‘investigative’ methods when rapes were reported.

    Stay strong and continue to fight against this terrible situation when men fell that it is okay to physically and mentally attack women in order to ‘put them in their place’

    Reply
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