The response to sexual harassment allegations reminds me why I kept quiet - Alexander Brown

I was at Tory conference 2018, and it happened at a party.

Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Picture: PA
Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Picture: PA

There with a tabloid, I was euphoric to have made it to the event as a whole, let alone the drinks.

I spoke to MPs, journalists I recognised from television, and faces from a political world I was desperate to be a part of.

Later in the evening I was introduced to a man considerably larger than me, who worked in the media.

Leaning in close to introduce himself over the sound of the music, we spoke for a matter of minutes about the conference, our careers, and the party.

Then in a blur one hand pulled my waist towards him while at the same time the other wrapped tightly around my throat.

Moving to closer to my neck, he whispered “you are too young for me, but I’m going to go home and make myself cum thinking about you”.

His friends laughed, and I fled back to my hotel to stare at the ceiling.

I wanted to tell someone, anyone, but to what end? Nothing really had happened, maybe it was a joke, and I should relax.

Even if it wasn’t, what value were my complaints in a room I felt like an imposter in?

The year after I arrived at a dinner, only to see him smile and introduce himself to me once again.

It was the first time a man touched me without asking, and the fear of his hands on my throat still lingered. For him it was forgotten or ignored.

Naturally our seats were next to each other, and he told me how I saw things the way others didn’t, and he’d love to help my career. I turned nervously as his hand touched my thigh.

I told colleagues who urged me to report him, as if my word against his had any weight, or there could be any real repercussions.

These are not isolated incidents, but the behaviour of those who know they can get away with it.

In parliament I have had men with wikipedia pages grope me, tell me how hot I am during meetings, or joke about masturbating over my photographs.

I can only laugh or pull back, knowing it’s just one person’s word against another. I was told not to be off, and think about how useful they could be in future.

Last week Caroline Nokes claimed the Prime Minister's father, Stanley Johnson groped her in 2003, while the New Statesman journalist Ailbhe Rea accused him of doing so at Tory conference in 2019.

Since then some Tory MPs have blanked Ms Nokes, journalists at a sympathetic organisation tried to go through her sexual history, and a television presenter tweeted a defence of Mr Johnson seemingly deciding his being her friend trumped the claims of those accusing him.

I was scared of sharing what happened, and parliament remains somewhere where people still put the party before what is right.

Even now I cannot name them, worried what it would mean for me, or if I might see them in the corridor or at an event.

Until the response moves past defending political allies, men and women will continue to stay silent on their own stories.

Alexander Brown is a columnist with Scotland on Sunday and Westminster Correspondent for The Scotsman

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