I was sexually assaulted by male colleague at a party, MSP claims

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An MSP has said she was sexually assaulted by a senior male colleague at a party.

Monica Lennon told the Sunday Mail she was groped at a social event four years ago in front of a room full of people.

Ms Lennon, 36, is the most senior UK politician to claim she has been a victim of a sexual assault since the scandal began to emerge in the last fortnight.

She told the newspaper: “It happened at a Labour Party social event in 2013, before I was an MSP. It was a private function, a room full of people.

“A man, who was a senior figure in the party, touched me in a manner that some would say is ‘handsy’. He was sitting next to me when he groped me, in full view of other people.

“I don’t want to go into the full details but he touched my body, in an intimate way, without invitation or permission. This shouldn’t happen to anyone.

“It’s possible at least half a dozen people saw exactly what happened.

“One man, who at the time was a Labour politician, joked to everyone in earshot, ‘That’s your fault for coming over here and getting him all excited’.

“A few days later I ran into another man who had seen what happened and he made a jokey reference to it.

“The underlying message was clear, the whole thing was to be treated as a joke.”

Ms Lennon has become the third member of Labour to claim a lack of help, following Bex Bailey and Ava Etemadzadeh last week.

She also said that having made an initial complaint to the Scottish Labour Party, she decided not to progress with it because she felt she would not be believed.

Ms Lennon was a South Lanarkshire councillor when the alleged incident happened.

She was elected to Holyrood in 2016 and is now the party’s spokeswoman on inequalities.

Ms Lennon told the newspaper she chose to speak out to highlight that sexism is rife in politics, not just at Westminster and Holyrood.

Labour MSP Richard Leonard said: “I am appalled that my friend and comrade has had to face this. Monica’s bravery to speak out should not be in vain. Our party must do more to be part of the solution.

“That means zero tolerance for a culture that permits the abuse of power in politics and across society and seeks to silence those who have been wronged.

“This isn’t just about Hollywood or Holyrood, this is also about all workplaces. No industry or organisation should be above the toughest of scrutiny and no one should go to work feeling unsafe, harassed or abused.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Party takes all complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination extremely seriously.

“We ask that anyone with a complaint comes forward so that allegations can be properly investigated. When evidence of misconduct comes to light, all appropriate disciplinary action is taken in line with the Party’s rule book and procedures.

“The Party has been working with its affiliates to develop procedures specifically designed to deal with complaints of sexual harassment and safeguarding issues in order to improve internal processes and make it easier to report concerns.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland show, Anas Sarwar MSP said: “I hope everyone across Scotland would be distressed at what we read in the news this morning.

“What we have got to try and do is create the space for women to be able to come forward and speak, if they wish to do so, and fundamentally take this culture head on.

“This culture of people abusing their position of power to have these inappropriate interactions is unacceptable in our society.”

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