Saturday, 13 April 2013

My experience of Steve Hedley and a message to the British Left.

Triggering issues including mental illness, domestic violence, victim blaming and body elitism are discussed in the following post.

As most trade union/left activists in the country know, there has recently been an incident regarding domestic abuse. On International Women's Day 2013 Caroline Leneghan (RMT- Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union) made public an account of how her ex-partner Steve Hedley (Assistant General Secretary of RMT) abused her physically and mentally during their relationship. Leneghan's blog can be found here and contains pictures of her injuries that some readers might find upsetting. In her blog she detailed how when she took her complaint to RMT & she detailed several ways in which RMT tried to disregard her allegation
  1. The investigator attempted to make a link between her mental illness and the abuse she suffered.
  2. She was asked about her personal history.
  3. She was asked how someone of Hedley's build with a history of boxing didn't hurt her more.
RMT then cleared Hedley and on the back of the investigator's attempt to blame Leneghan's mental illness he wrote a statement which you can read here.

A few weeks before this Leneghan published her account of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Hedley, I got into an online argument with him. Firstly during the argument he stated that I 'couldn't handle the topic' attempting to convince me and others that my point was non other than a product of me being to delicate for the discussion.

His tone with anyone who contributed to that discussion was vile, but to me in particular. He told me that 'in the real world' people argued and alleged that I was a 'middle class student' who would soon be 'sacking the workers' (presumably with my English degree from Edge Hill). When I affirmed that I was indeed working class, a council tenant, a care leaver and had extensive experience in the 'real world' he then shifted his attack to my looks. 

Hedley's attempt to silence me by telling me I was middle class, then telling me I was ugly then telling me I needed to 'find myself a partner of some kind'  made me feel like my part in the debate was completely dictated by my gender and by my age. A well paid middle aged man in the high ranks of the RMT being misogynistic, ableist, and attempting to intimidate a young woman isn't as serious his violence to Leneghan, and I wouldn't want anyone to think that for a second. What is similar, however was the way in which Hedley reacted. 

First he attacked me and then when I fought back he told me that my mental health was the problem and that I needed to 'seek some help', he also went to look on my profile. Finally when I refused to allow him to bully me publicly he told me that I was playing the victim and that I had been attacking him by swearing in my comments.
 First he physically attacked Leneghan and then when she sought help in his statement he told the world that her mental health was to blame and he hoped she would get the help she needed and he implied he had been the victim. 

There's a pattern emerging, isn't there? I spoke to someone who worked with domestic violence victims and they told me that abusers tend to use one set of behaviours repeatedly to disempower the people they wish to hurt. Hedley's attack on my mental health and his pointing to Caroline Leneghan's as the problem isn't a coincidence, it's a tactic used to make onlookers (and the victim) question the validity of their opinion. 

Unfortunately I've encountered many men that attempt to silence me with bullying tactics and many of them in the Left, I've seen first hand in the SWP what not listening to women and survivors can do. It's poisonous. So I have a message to the British Left;

 women will not be silenced any more and your attempt to disregard the abuse we suffer will result in your cause being weaker. No longer can you hide misogyny or rape apologism behind a veil of doing the best for the party or the cause. No longer can you appropriate the women's struggle with tokenism to strengthen your appearance whilst simultaneously pushing silence upon us. 
There will be no radical left without women's liberation and no women's liberation with victim blaming and rape apologism. 


  1. I have noticed many of those rushing to the defense of steve Hedley, including his current partner whom I did consider a comrade attempt to reduce all feminists (except those who defend assange) as middle class. It doesnt work, their own classism shows through in that they cannot comprehend that intelligent and educated (self or otherwise) women can and very often do hail from working class backgrounds. I am disgusted to see that he insulted you on your physical appearance and relationship status. Full solidarity. x

  2. Pippa, where are your comments to Steve on the above thread?
    Surely you want people to see the full picture?

    1. Hi Ted (?),
      Sorry for late reply, I don't currently have a computer so it has taken me a while to get this up.
      Thanks for you comment.

    2. So within your first four comments you call him a 'condescending prick' and a 'cunt', so you were indeed attacking him; and it was only then he chose to "bully" you by calling you ugly? Erm, ever considered your behaviour was the trigger here?

    3. Hi! Thanks for your contribution and taking the time to look at this post.
      Firstly Hedley's contributions on this thread were already full of taboo language and slurs before I contributed to the discussion. Secondly, in your comment you refered to body elitism, however you missed misogyny, ableism, and the other silencing techniques used by Hedley in this discussion.
      Whilst you're entitled to your opinion on my use of taboo language and my tone, I don't feel comfortable with the idea that me swearing warrants ableism, misogyny, body elitism, tone policing and intimidation techniques.
      So if you're asking if I 'triggered' oppressive behaviour in someone else (a more privileged person than myself I might add) then the answer is no. Absolutely not. Unless you believe Hedley using taboo language further up in the thread entitled me to attack Hedley on the basis of body image, ability or gender?