Content warning: this post reports sexual violence, physical and emotional abuse, and rape apologism in detail, mentions CSA
This is a statement from “Harriet”, an anonymous former member of the International Socialist Network. She contacted me asking for help in getting her experience out there. Please be warned that her statement describes in detail what happened to her, so please make sure you do what you can to keep yourself safe. Harriet would like her story to be heard.
‘What’s he done now?’ Abuse in the IS Network!
The following piece is about the physical and emotional abuse I experienced in the IS Network, the organisation that split with the SWP because of the rape of a young woman by the secretary of the SWP. I am writing under an alias to protect my mother from the truth about the abuse I experienced as a child. I may talk to her about this in time, but that’s my decision. The man who did this to me was the secretary of the IS Network at the time he sexually assaulted me. He is currently active on the left and within the unions. His name is Tim.
I’ve just ordered another 2 cans of 13 Guns, I do this often now, numb myself. I like the feeling of my body relaxing, knowing that I don’t have to deal with reality until my subconscious procures my senses and I see what this man did to me in my dreams.
Alcohol releases the intensity of anger. I am on anti-depressants for the first time. The booze and the drugs feel good, calming and replaces the tears and pain with a lightness, allowing me to cope. I want my life back, I want to feel innocent and trusting like I used to, but I know too much to go back.
I realise now, that what we think of as choice is not always so, it’s often forced upon us. If I had a choice I wouldn’t write this piece, because I don’t like hurting anyone, but I don’t have a choice. I have to write this because it’s the right thing to do. I am afraid of writing this article, because I have tried to speak out before but I was called a liar, and messages I wrote to this man were published on my Facebook page, which were taken out of context. I was an organiser in the IS Network and he was a powerful influence within the organisation. He was taken seriously. If I wanted the IS Network to survive I had to forgive him. I had to get him to take me seriously. But he never did.
When I met him I was taken in by his stand against abuse in the SWP, because of this I thought he was different. I have lost count of how many times I have been harassed and sexually assaulted in my life, but I know it started at age 6 and from this age I was a survivor.
Tim was one of the Facebook 4, kicked out of the SWP for standing up against sexism. This is part of the reason I trusted him. But Tim has emotionally abused me for years and from the moment he met me he has targeted me as a sexual object of his desire.
I know now that he is a bully. I remember when he started shaming comrades in his publications on the IS Network website. His writing was provocative, intentionally hostile and defensive but I wanted him to like me so I didn’t say anything. Sometimes I had to compromise what I knew was the right thing to do intuitively. But If I did I would be out of the clique. A group of comrade from the IS Network would organise separately to the official IS Network Facebook group and when I realised this was a group of people bantering at best and using it to bully other comrades outside of the clique at worst I left. This was raised by other younger comrades in the IS Network as an issue after I left the group, but dealt with antagonistically by members of the clique.
At times I have felt particularly angered so I have stood up to Tim’s bullying of others, such as when he ridiculed a comrade on Facebook for posting selfies. This was obviously gendered because I only ever saw him ridicule selfies taken by men. But the fact of the matter is that Tim does not like being challenged for his behaviour so he complained to the steering committee that I was ‘abusing’ him on Facebook because I was standing up for a comrade he was clearly bullying.
I often felt that his behaviour towards others on the left was bullying, ridiculing their comments and pictures.
I knew I was healthily challenging his behaviour but I bowed to the pressure, apologised and left the group he was organising, even though I had just carried hundreds of leaflets for them for miles and hurt myself doing so, only to arrive back to the flat with the box of flyers, to more piss taking on Facebook. But we couldn’t lose another exceptional talent.
When we first met he said I was different and he wanted to go out with me. I wasn’t sure who he was comparing me to, but I was flattered. I was feeling good in myself, my hair had mostly grown back and my weight was good, I wasn’t too thin and even though I wasn’t feeling great about what had happened in the SWP, I was generally healthy. I certainly didn’t drink every day like I do now, drinking came later.
In retrospect, I remember he always had a lot to say to men, but he hardly spoke to me. He generally wanted sex and quickly. I remember on one occasion at a party with IS Network comrades he asked me to go upstairs and he would follow, mocking me to get my attention. He always wanted to get me into bed so quickly. It always came out of nothing too. He took advantage of the fact I liked him, even though we established we were only going to be friends.
He dumped me after the second time sleeping together, this was before the time above actually, and in fact literally straight after sleeping together, but even though it hurt, I took it well and told him that I would be happy to be friends with him. But he could never do friendship, this became obvious over the next couple of years. He had a hold over me, and I am sure he was well aware of this.
Then came the assault when he was the secretary of the IS Network, the splinter group of the SWP. The group that left the SWP because of the abusive secretary of the SWP.
This is the statement I wrote but is remains unpublished until now:
I have been angry with Tim for a long time – his sister was right in pointing this out, however, my anger towards him was never directed at her, I was angry with her because she never challenged his behaviour and would hate people on the basis that they upset Tim. The reason I was angry with Tim and still am is because of the way he treated me.
I never got to tell Tim why and how he hurt me, because he always refused to listen. The reason I emailed him to tell him it was over after the night of his birthday party wasn’t just because of my feelings for him or not wanting to get hurt, it was because he had already hurt me. Tim pressured me into having sexual relations with him, which he should have realised I didn’t want, because I repeatedly made that clear to him.
The incident I refer to occurred after I was persuaded to go to his birthday party in Bristol a day before the IS Network conference in Sheffield. The invite came at the last minute after it was implied only certain people from the Facebook invitation group would be welcome, and I felt a bit uncomfortable going because every time I saw Tim in person he would try it on with me, we would end up having consensual sexual relations and then he would ignore me afterwards, which made it really difficult working as an organiser in the IS Network.
The night in question was the same as usual, he came on to me and I reciprocated. As usual, we hadn’t spoken much that evening before he asked me to sit on the sofa and then kissed me hard as soon as another comrade walked out of the room – everyone else had gone home or gone to bed. I was very aware when this was going on that I was on my period, so when he said he wanted to fuck me hard I tried to pretend he didn’t say ‘hard’ and responded ‘you want to fuck me?’, he said yes but hard.
At this point I told him I was on my period so I couldn’t, but he persisted and asked me to go to the bathroom with him so we could have some privacy. As soon as we were in the bathroom and he started kissing me I pulled away and told him I didn’t want to do this and I was very cold, at which point he got the message and went downstairs and I told him I was going to the toilet, and then he walked in on me when I was on the toilet and I had to tell him to leave – he apologised and left.
I went back downstairs, but another comrade had taken the sofa and Tim the only other chair, at this point I was tired and just wanted to fall asleep in his arms. I climbed onto the sofa with him. Tim said he thought he was taking advantage of me and that he liked to have sex with beautiful and intelligent women. At this point I felt used and pressured and felt as if I should be pleasing him.
I didn’t want to do anything but we started kissing and he asked if I would get naked with him, I didn’t want to do anything while I was on my period, our comrade was on the next sofa and I was tired and cold, so I told him I was cold and he said he would warm me up. I felt the pressure so I took off my top, at which point he grabbed my hand and took me back upstairs to the bathroom. In the bathroom he immediately went down on me, I was not turned on at all, but was more concerned about being on my period and kept pulling his right hand up to check it for blood. I forgot to bring a change of sanitary products with me so was feeling particularly vulnerable.
Tim realised I wasn’t getting wet and turned on, at which point he told me he liked it when I was wet and he licked me, implying that he didn’t like that I wasn’t wet. Tim then moved on to sucking and then biting my left nipple, and carried on after I told him that it was hurting me, but he kept saying he couldn’t hear me, even though I kept on crying it out and he carried on biting my nipple until he bit it red raw and hurt me so badly that I had to physically pull him away, but he ignored me and continued to bite my nipple. I remember very little after this.
The next day after conference I felt awful. When I took my bra off that evening the skin on my left nipple came away and I started bleeding. I felt used and abused and like I didn’t want him near me again. I emailed Tim that week to say we couldn’t do that again. This was the only time sexual relations with him felt like sexual assault so I confided in a friend not very long after the incident and she advised me that consent boundaries were crossed.
We argued often after this incident and I felt he was always angry with me and tried to control me.
Then I confided in the women’s caucus about being abused when I was 6 years old. I confided to the women’s caucus in confidence, to explain why I had been so upset with dealing with the subject of the SWP being allowed on campus. I ended up getting into an argument with a woman in the caucus, which we realised afterwards was a complete misunderstanding, but in order to prove what had happened in the caucus she said that she would publish it in the main group. This was a private argument, which included confidential information about me. I was worried this information was going to be published in the main group with both genders, so I said if it was I was going to make complaint.
Tim publicly humiliated me in the IS Network Facebook group and tried to obstruct my complaint. His sister, who was a member of the complaints group, liked Tim’s comment obstructing my complaint on Facebook. This was a clear conflict of interest and should have been immediately picked up by the complaints group and she should have stepped down from her position of authority on this case. Instead she used her position to further marginalise me and undermine my legitimate concerns about confidentiality and abuse.
The abuse that took place in my neighbour’s house at the age of 6 was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, I convinced myself at the time that I was dying, I started losing my hair and became increasingly distant from those around me.
It had taken me 20 years to admit the abuse I went through as a child to my sister and thought I could trust the women in the women’s caucus but no one apart from 2 women stood by me in the IS Network Facebook group that day. I was completely alone and ended up with severe depression and months off work. I still tried to keep the ISN going, but with very little support from anyone around me.
Then when I approached Tim to discuss these issues he decided to go and tell all of our Bristol comrades that I have a mental illness. I was stupidly still trying to see some good in him. Hoping he would apologise for how he treated me. The constant emotional abuse and the physical abuse. I never wanted to go public with this, because I never wanted to forget the goodness I saw in him, the person who I see others love. I never wanted to take that away from them.
I want an apology for what Tim did to me. I want to join a political group without being told I am problematic. I want my old self back, the person who used to trust and laugh, the woman who loved her comrades and friends and always welled up when I spent time with my comrades, because they made me so proud to know such principled people who would always stand up and fight. I want to not feel broken anymore. And I want to love again like I used to. In order to realise all these things I needed to write this piece.
Always, Harriet Casey
Supporting statement from Kaff
I have witnessed Tim’s behaviour towards Harriet and fully support her above statement. I was present at a gathering of ISN comrades in Bristol and I was worried about his behaviour. He was being very overt in his sexual advances and Harriet looked uncomfortable. I would have been very uncomfortable in that situation also. I also remember that Harriet seemed to want to stay with us all where we were sat, in the dining room, but Tim was very much focussed on going upstairs with her and I remember a conversation that involved his sister saying that Harriet shouldn’t be getting involved with Tim because she was still living with a previous partner under complicated circumstances. I thought that was very odd because she didn’t once appear to be advancing on Tim sexually, he was the one making sexual advances on her. I had no preconceptions about anyone at this gathering at that point because I was still very new to politics and had only met Tim briefly before. Following this night, Tim’s responses to Harriet’s comments on Facebook posts were very unpleasant and he was bullying her. She received very little support from anyone and we all let her down. The reason I am writing this is because I don’t want her to be alone in this anymore, she needs all of our full support. by Kaff