i Editor's Letter: Rome in mind


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The Independent Online


We were straphanging on a bus in Rome during our first visit there in the 80s. My teenage sister was making pained expressions at me - nothing new there, it's still our standard mode of discourse. When we got off at the Coliseum, she had "a right go" at me. "Why didn't you do something?" she yelled. I couldn't "do anything", of course, because I didn't know until it was too late that she had endured her first bottom groping.

Rome has been in my mind during the Lord Rennard "harassment" saga. Yesterday, i's Steve Richards dared suggest the allegations were not "in the same league as the Jimmy Savile scandal", a self-evident truth that does not diminish the hurt done to groping victims. Some of you demurred.

When such assaults take place at work, otherwise confident and strong victims can be reduced to teenage inarticulacy. Victims are usually women and gropers usually men in positions of greater power. I know it's "usually" because it actually happened to me in a former life as a student coffee barista. It was a daily irritant, but not intimidating. So I let it lie.

This is not the case for most female victims. So, when they find the courage to speak up, and risk embarrassment, ridicule, and their jobs, it is incumbent on their bosses not just to listen but to do something (read Grace Dent  piece).

Forget political point-scoring about what Nick Clegg knew or not, the real point is that the Lib Dems, like any other employer, should have taken the complaints far more seriously and investigated fully to establish Rennard's guilt, or innocence. Which is what they would have done if we gave groping its real name: sexual assault.