[CN Rape, Sexual Harassment]
Over the last week a series of blog posts have come out detailing appalling instances of sexual abuse perpetrated by the then Leeds Beckett UCU branch secretary, Paul Blackledge, and the support he received from some fellow UCU activists at both national and branch level. Failing to deploy counter-procedures against his accusers, Blackledge still received considerable support from some fellow UCU left comrades who remain in prominent positions within the national union. While Blackledge eventually was expelled from the union, these blog posts make a few things clear: namely that the support Blackledge received was primarily from SWP linked fellow UCU Left activists and that the Rule 13 process used to deal with cases of sexual assault is inadequate. As the Survivors Rule blog states:
‘We were at the core of the Union complaint lodged under Rule 13. This was extremely stressful and prolonged process which was not helped by the difficult procedure under Rule 13, and it was made unbearable by the fact that the abuser was able to use the process and his UCU and SWP friends at local, regional and national level to further the abuse through silencing and ostracising us.’
URBC would like to express its unwavering support for victims of sexual violence, and support their right to seek out justice according to adequate and efficient measures put in place by institutions. We believe survivors and support their right to be heard and respected, within and beyond the university. We also have historically cut ties or refused to collaborate with campaigns that have been revealed to harbour and protect abusive people and practices.
We also intimately know how procedures and regulations, as well as complicity, operate as means to victimise people who are painted as troublemakers when they raise their voice against abuse, intimidation and harassment. Indeed, we have seen these kinds of tactics deployed against non-EU students and staff who have raised their voice against being mistreated by their institutions, seeing academics close ranks in the face of criticism and deploying the full force of the UK’s border regime in order to silence whistleblowers. We are horrified to see similar tactics deployed by members of UCU with significant positions of power within the union, and disappointed that UCU does not appear to have an effective policy to properly support members who have been victims of sexual abuse and harassment. This is not a factional position – URBC supports the strike, supports rank and file members and indeed, many of us will be participating in the strike. What we do not support is a culture of abuse enabled by arcane union structures and actual factional complicity.
Therefore, line with our stance to believe and support victims of sexual violence, we urgently ask for that the individuals face accountability processes which are in line with the survivors’ needs. We also wish to underline the need for reviewing a process reviewing process of the Rule 13 procedure so as to make the procedure less traumatising and more accessible to anyone who finds themselves having to fight sexual misconduct claims within the UCU.