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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Whistle-blowing hotlines could help women report abuse - Harriet Harman

Written by Katrine Bussey

Harriet Harman has called for whistle-blowing hotlines to be set up in response to the "endemic" abuse against women.

The veteran Labour MP said society needed to do more in response to cases such as the allegations made against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinsten than simply "blame women or wring our hands".

Ms Harman has previously revealed how when she was a third-year student at York University a tutor told her she would "definitely" get a better degree if she had sex with him.

She said: "He was absolutely repulsive and I had no hesitation of exiting the room."

The MP said it did not cross her mind at the time to complain about the incident, saying: "Who could you complain to? All the other lecturers were his friends, they would all side with him, I would be regarded as a troublemaker."

She added: "With the Harvey Weinstein thing, it is a classic thing of men abusing their power in a situation where women are wanting to go into this particular sphere of work and there is a male hierarchy."

Detectives in both the UK and US are now investigating claims against the disgraced movie producer.

A list of celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Rose McGowan, Alice Evans and Sophie Dix have recently spoken out against Weinstein's conduct - although he has ''unequivocally denied'' any allegations of non-consensual sex.

Ms Harman, speaking at the festival of politics in the Scottish Parliament, said: "Of course, the overwhelming majority of men wouldn't dream of sexually abusing a women further down the system, but some will and the power they have gives them impunity, which means they do it again and again and again.

"So, what we've got at the moment is people thinking 'is Harvey Weinstein one evil person?' No, he is not, it is absolutely endemic.

"But secondly that there is nothing we can do about it except wring our hands, or that it is somehow women's faults for not complaining. With Harvey Weinstein, somebody even said it was Angelina Jolie's fault, for heaven's sake.

"Actually, we need to do more than blame women or wring our hands and think there's nothing we can do about it.

"I think that the absolute key to this, when I think about my own experience and think about the Harvey Weinstein thing, is we need a system of whistle-blowing, anonymous whistle-blowing.

"If there had been that system in place at my university, I would have got on that whistle-blowing line straight away."

While she said abusers may not be instantly held to account, she explained repeated complaints against an individual would create a "hot spot" which could then be investigated.

Ms Harman, a former Labour deputy leader and MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said: "If you think about Jimmy Savile, if people had been able to complain anonymously about Jimmy Savile to a kind of sex abuse helpline loads of people would have done it, and he wouldn't then have been able to carry on for decades, because the next time somebody complained about it and were prepared to go on the record everybody would know that this was happening.

"We need a whistleblowing system, it needs to be anonymous, so that those patterns can be seen.

"It is never only one woman, if he is going to do it with one woman he is going to keep trying and, once he has done it and succeeded, he will just carry on.

"We need to all work together to insist that is what happens."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.