Parliament workers have shed further light on sexual assault, bullying and harassment in Westminster through an anonymous survey.
A questionnaire issued by BBC Radio 5 live in the wake of last year’s Westminster sex scandal received 166 responses, with some describing a ‘toxic’ environment.
Four women replied to say they had been sexually assaulted, while 19 people were the victims of harassment and 39 experienced bullying.
A vast majority of the 1,500 questionnaires sent out by the radio station to people publicly listed as working for MPs were not returned.
Four respondents to the survey, three women in their 20s and a woman in her 50s, said they had been sexually assaulted.
One said she had been assaulted by a former MP, one by a visitor to an MP and another by a House of Commons employee.
None of the four women chose to report what happened – three said they did not believe it was serious enough, while the other admitted being afraid it could negatively impact her career.
Meanwhile, 18 women and one man said they had been sexually harassed, with many reporting experiencing sexual comments, jokes or gesture.
A woman in her 20s said friends told her she looked like a ‘battered wife’ while working for two MPs.
The first shouted at her, threatened to sack her, made persistent comments about her love life and simulated hitting her, while the second made a pass at her.
Of the 39 to have been bullied, 24 said it was by the MP they worked for – but just a third of workers reported the behaviour.
A man in his 30s said: ‘I felt it would look professionally incompetent and compromise the masculine environment across Westminster.’
Describing the culture in Parliament, one respondent said it was ‘sexist, laddish and misogynistic’, while another replied: ‘Toxic. Alcohol and power do not mix well.’
However, others were far more positive, with one saying: ‘It’s not the den of sexual depravity the media want it to be.’
Another described the ‘sexual harassment witch hunt’ as ‘ridiculous’, while others said a majority of MPs treated their staff well.
David Natzler, clerk of the House of Commons, said: ‘I do want to ensure that members’ staff know where to go for help and advice: their first port of call is the employee assistance programme helpline on 0800 030 5182 who are available 24/7 or if they seek face-to-face advice at Westminster ring the health and wellbeing service on 020 7219 0943 and make an appointment.
‘Those who have been subject to sexual assault may wish to contact the police’s Parliamentary Liaison & Investigation Team (PLAIT), or to report the matter to their local police.’
The findings will be analysed in The Emma Barnett Show on Wednesday 10 January from 10am on BBC Radio 5 live.