Answering "Momentum against the AWL"

Submitted by AWL on 20 June, 2020 - 9:50

A “Momentum Against the AWL” twitter campaign have said the Working Group looking into a report of sexual assault taking place in 2005, made public in 2018, was a “whitewash”. This assertion is variously linked to other points including not involving the survivor in their work, and that nobody in the AWL has resigned as a result of its findings. Our response, written in consultation with members of that Working Group, and to correct some of these misrepresentations, is as follows:

• The remit of the Working Group, published on our site on 30.1.18 was: to “further investigate individual and collective responses made by the AWL from 2005 onwards, while respecting a stated wish by the complainant for the matter not to be taken further, e.g. to the police.” This communication was made to us very early on.

• Guided by that communication, the investigatory remit of the Group was to follow up an initial investigation that showed people in and around the AWL to whom the complainant confided information in the years after 2005 had not reported that to any AWL committee before 2018. Those people said they did that because the complainant had asked them not to report it, or they did not have permission to report it, even though in some cases the complainant was under 18 when he confided in them as friends.

• The Group’s overall judgement is that a lack of reporting, at the time and subsequently, were, whatever the reasoning about confidentiality, “serious mistakes”.

• The Group’s main remit was to look at how our structures contributed to this failing and what could be done to improve our welfare and grievance procedures.

•The Group’s overall conclusion and recommendation was: “The priority of the organisation should be to put in place preventative measures to minimise the chance of a similar incident occurring again and to ensure the AWL has procedures and guidance in place so that comrades know what to do in the interests of protecting young and other vulnerable people in the future.”

• We were never formally asked to make any investigation.

• We could not, in 2018, investigate the alleged 2005 incident itself: this would have been significantly beyond our powers as an organisation; we would have had no means of bringing the alleged perpetrator “to justice”; and attempting an investigation of this kind may have impeded future criminal investigations, not least because the alleged perpetrator had drifted away from, and then left the AWL by 2008.

• The report of the Group is very critical. It may be judged to be inadequate by a critical reader, but it cannot by any stretch be called a “whitewash”. Our National Committee made the report public, was guided by and implemented its recommendations in full; there has been no attempt to argue against its findings or mitigate any of its criticism.

• Shortly before the Group made its report public we sent a copy to the survivor. Shortly afterwards we made arrangements to meet him to discuss the contents and proposals which he agreed to. Given the political gulf between us, reflected in his original statement, we thought it wise to arrange to do that with the help of a mediator. Accordingly we hired a professional mediator, and set up a meeting. That meeting was cancelled by the survivor very shortly before it was due to start. Subsequent attempts by the Group to set up alternative dates failed. We remain willing to discuss any and all issues.

• Nobody in the AWL has resigned because of the report because we felt it was a serious attempt to direct the organisation towards being better. Nobody is under any illusion that the programme proposed by the Working Group was a one-off effort.

• The report, linked to above, may answer any questions about further details. If not, please contact us at: office@workersliberty.org.

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