18. Sexual & gendered violence – treatment of survivors in MFJ/RIL and BAMN/RWL

I have recently received a rather horrible letter from someone who defends MFJ/RIL, who I had met with personally when still an MFJ member. Aside from the psychological harm condescending and sexist invalidation of abuse causes, it made me painfully realise that I may have to give more context to why the abusive ‘intervention’ in October 2017 that began the UnfollowmMFJ and #SpeakPlainTruth runs so much deeper and sinister than people realise.

Talking about personal history of trauma is extremely difficult and personal, and I had hoped it would not be necessary, but yet here we are.
tw: rape, abuse, exploitation, and aftermath

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It’s September 2016 and I am raped in a flat, by someone known and trusted. It’s my last year of a painstakingly progressing university degree and I am working full-time on a very small wage, in a new job. I have just re-joined MFJ as a very active member last month. It takes weeks to even begin processing what happened to me. I am not well, keep having panic attacks, pains, nightmares, sleeping difficulties, flashbacks haunt me; I have physical and mental symptoms typical for sexual assault. I am in London on my own, and I live with new people I barely know. MFJ is my only source of group and migrant support. I struggle at work and with the course. I also keep having flashbacks of my domestic violence relationship from years ago.
Finally, I tell KD about what happened on the coach from Yarls Wood demo in November. She’s the first person I tell.
Few days later, I have a breakdown during the MFJ demonstration in early December, after physical confrontations happen. I tell KD she can tell others in the RIL about the rape (having figured out that’s the RIL system anyway). She informs me she already had told everyone.
Back at KD and AB’s home, with AP too, I am sat on a chair to ‘tell them what happened’. I kind of want to, to receive support, but it’s too difficult and I break down in tears and hide in the bathroom. AB comes after me first and AP comes later. Eventually I manage to speak a little. The disdain that MFJ has for any other organisations dealing with sexual/domestic violence survivors is clear, and only healthcare specialist services were suggested.
KD also manages to brainwash me into believing that my 10yr old friendship is actually wrong and harmful, using the sexual assault as reason (my friend gives me ‘wrong support’), and after an argument with said friend the friendship breaks down. I am further and further reliant on emotional support from RIL, and my social circle shrinks to MFJ. (Looking back it is horrifying how influential experienced manipulators can be, but then I remember the ‘frog in boiling water’ metaphor)
Sometime later I have a panic attack that lasts for hours and I cannot breathe. I am driven to the hospital, and I break down in hysterics. I get a meeting with anxiety clinic and referral to a Rape Crisis Centre. AP comes with me to the A&E, with other MFJ friends. There is repeated message of me being a ‘fighter’ and not a ‘victim’ and disdain for other organisations who offer support.
Days later, AP goes to the hospital physical check up with me, but I am unable to go through.
KD goes to the Rape Crisis Centre with me to speak to a therapist who deals with sexual assault survivors, because I cannot do it alone.
I get some specialist support and gradually get better.

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Meanwhile, KD (who openly discusses her trauma with anyone during first meeting, see testimony posts ie. here and here ) discloses to me personal details of assault that a recent MFJ member had gone through and shared with her, without the person’s knowledge or consent, presumably to make me feel I’m not alone/build relatedness to the movement. Two RIL members, at two different points and in public, suddenly talk to me about their experiences with men, to suggest they know what I’m going through. It is really, profoundly not the same, but I stay quiet, grateful they try to care. An MFJ member’s personal statement detailling their sexual abuse is forwarded to me in the email, without their knowledge and consent, as part of ‘handling the case’.
Throughout 2017 RIL is fully aware of the mental impact the assault has had on me, as I regularly talk to KD seeking support when feeling low or having panic attacks. I am finally right where she wants me, emotionally vulnerable and reliant.
Whenever I feel guilty for needing support I am told that it’s a ‘comradely’ thing to do, because I have to be strong to keep being an important activist in MFJ. Everything is ‘for the revolution’, and I should read some Marx on sexism. I am guided in the direction of pushing through, more than resting, although lip service is paid to doing less MFJ jobs  – however this never extends beyond one or two activities/evenings, when RIL and MFJ have things to keep them busy almost daily. Meanwhile, the men from RIL are not available for days due to unknown reasons, holidays, family engagements etc.
Meanwhile, TG, the ‘revolution’ theorist, is able to direct me to exactly one piece of writing (A. Kollontai), when I want to discuss sexism, as sexism is viewed in RIL/MFJ as too big to tackle and too ingrained in society to bother. Any domestic violence conversation is met with ‘just need to read more Marxism’ answer.
Perhaps because two comfortably living heterosexual white men run the groups in UK and USA, MFJ only mentions sexism as a listed tick-box word in some leaflets.
In the summer 2017, closing up to the first anniversary, my abusive biological family (from whom I am estranged) finds me on social media and unleashes several members and friends to message me coercing contact. I freak out and leave London. The only person I call is AP, as she has experience in mental health. The irony.
Throughout August I experience flashbacks and panic attacks because of the approaching rape anniversary, and RIL is fully aware of it, as whoever I talk to the messages get passed on, I am resigned to this at the point and accept that no information from lower-rank members is private in the group hivemind. One of the demonstrations/marches takes place meters away from the flat where I was assaulted. I still attend, leave, come back. KD stays on the phone with me when I have the panic attacks, and gives advice.
Throught the year 2017 me and the person I am now in a relationship with keep developing a friendship, which starts to grow deeper, and we discuss our feelings in early days of October 2017. After I contact RIL to let them know I’d like guidance on how to navigate the situation because of membership in the same group, I receive very quick, brief and fake ‘thank you for telling us’ messages in writing, then complete silence on the topic (despite meeting face to face), until the brutal ‘intervention’ two days later, which took place straight after watching a mass of threatening men walk down the streets of London (FLA).
I was psychologically and emotionally tortured during that ‘intervention’. My privacy was discussed by KD and TG (old white man whom I barely talked to about my private life) in the room. It was led by an angry, swearing and shouting KD, who knew so much depth of my trauma with violence. My sex life was interrogated. For some twisted reason beyond me, I was likened to my rapist for having romantic feelings for someone (particularly ugly to tell someone who is just beginning to repair intimate trust after an serious assault). I was likened to a teacher who abuses students,  because I was trained to join RIL and the other person was not. I was told if the gender was reverse it would be a certain scandal, like in the past, and why can’t I understand it. However, I was also told if RIL had more people it somehow wouldn’t be a problem for us two to date – but MFJ cannot afford to ‘lose anyone’ – the presumption was the relationship was abhorrent, sexist, doomed, and the inevitable break up and its inevitable bad-handling by the two idiots we were, would impact the movement.
I was also told the person does not like me for me, but are simply impressed with my ‘leadership’ and that it’s nothing personal to do with me, and I should stop this ‘gross misconduct’ before it ‘destroys the movement’ and that they would help me break up immediately. I literally demanded verbal confirmation from RIL that they will not plot to manipulate us into a break up, because I was foreseeing this. You can read a bit more about it in post 2, I do not want to revisit that event any more.
The ‘intervention’ ended after 2hrs, with me sobbing and zoning out with severe disassociation, questioning whether I am indeed a dangerous monster, promising I my loyalty to the group. But I knew I was not breaking up with the person who I was having feelings for because I was ordered to do so.
This was the first time I told RIL ‘no’ about my life choices.
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This is why there was no ‘talking it through’ and treating it like a ‘private/inside organsation’ ‘dispute’, although if you read the posts I did try, in disbelief about what had been done to me, at the further cost to my mental health.
The psychological devastation of having people I trusted as migrants rights activists – and thought my friends and fellow activists – using excruciatingly intimate and extremely vulnerable knowledge about one of the most horrific event of my life against me to control me, attack me, and destroy me psychologically so I obey their rules, so I sacrifice my own self for their idea of a ‘revolution’, and then gaslight me and bully through every single request for space and understanding and after I left, then riling up everyone they could in MFJ to keep privately and publicly calling me a stupid, selfish, racist and mentally disturbed person, and on top of that try to expose me to my biological family, essentially cutting of my main source of support and friends, is beyond description.
I cannot engage further with this topic, and will not for a while, for my own mental health. I resent that my personal trauma and life has to be publicised to ‘validate’ the level of horrors in the cult that MFJ is. But the recent events made me think that maybe if speak out on everything, things will get less side-lined, twisted and called ‘personal’ singular events that people can ‘have opinions on’ and question survivors telling the truth. And now, as my life finally re-stabilises and I am supported by real friends and groups, I can speak out more.
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No woman/femme in RIL is having relationships, although the men have marriages and relationships on the side. All members are encouraged to identify themselves as ‘queer’ or lesbian/gay, to tick off more ‘opression’ boxes. Some former members UnfollowMFJ had met with, who were in MFJ years before us, also recall coercion from RIL to identify as LGBTQ, whether true or not. KD often expressed personal issues with non-lesbian queer femmes (a factor, especially as she considered herself my ‘mentor’ or perhaps owner).  I did have a feeling that my bisexuality was a problem, and if the person I was having feelings for was of a different gender (that would make us both ‘look’ queer), it would be less opposed by RIL because they could use it as another prop. However, we know of queer couples being broken up and re-arranged by the in UK and USA (you can read about it in the ex-member testimony here). It is all about maintaining control over members.
MFJ preys on vulnerable, isolated, traumatised people with history of abuse. They literally say ‘the most traumatised people make the best leaders cause they have most to gain and least to lose’ and seek them out intentionally. Abuse victims and survivors also often have low treshold for manipulative behaviour and abuse (because are used to it, expect it, are groomed for it) and can experience any kindness amongst harm as nearly miraculous, ready to defend its rare source with fierce loyalty. It’s a classic abuser strategy – seek out hurt people, be attentive and nice to them (love-bombing), coerce isolation, and slowly push the boundaries til you get full control – then you no longer need to hold back and play nice. They act like they own you, your time, your story and your voice. All for the ‘greater good’.
See how RIL’s sister group in USA, RWL (and MFJ front sister group BAMN) treat sexual abuse survivors – click here for description of disclosing without consent, and ugly justification from MH who is a BAMN (and maybe RWL, who knows) member in the comments (screenshot below).
How, when and to whom we tell our stories of violence survival is sometimes the only control and agency that remains about the assault(s). To insert self, take this agency away because of ‘know better’ arrogance, and to attempt to utilise it for own petty cult agenda, is sick, abusive, dangerous as hell, and often retraumatising. It is yet another form of assaulting agency and imposing ownership on someone’s life and experiences.
Considering how many immigration cases involve surviving sexual and other abuse, when we say MFJ are a cult dangerous to migrants this is what we mean. Any compassion they perform comes with invisible-yet strings attached, and serves to hook you in, built trust and loyalty – so they can use you as their ‘movement building’ prop. I ticked the ‘Eastern European’, ‘queer’, ‘migrant’ (and ‘fleeing domestic violence’, ‘rape survivor’, ‘isolated’ from communities) boxes they desperately needed for their temporary Brexit campaign.
You know which box you tick, from how they tell you to begin your speeches or describe you.
There is no privacy, no security, no support when you are not giving tenfolds in return  – your personal life, your intimacy, your time, your face (especially if POC), your case’s publicity and validation, your money, your whole free time, your skills, your work, ideally your mind and soul (and email passwords). If you disobey them, they use knowledge of your trauma or mental health to break you down into obedience. They do not care about your humanity, they use and abuse people, and forget about them when no longer can utilise or the next crisis calls for the self-appointed ‘vanguard builders’. We have seen how deep personal trauma of MFJ members was used to ‘help their case’, aggravated on purpose by RIL, because RIL has made the decision this is best way to ‘fight’ (this was of course kept secret from other MFJ members, because they were not RIL leaders) We have seen the trail of discarded people left behind. We have seen so many people come to one or a few meetings and never return, because of how the groups is ran. We have seen people come and emerge, to most surprise of RIL, who have by then forgotten about them as not useful.
This is what a cult does. It only cares about control and more control for the few leaders.
This is not safe, this is not normal, this is not something that can be brushed under the carpet because of MFJ’s continuous, desperate attempts to inject themselves into the latest public crisis (ie Windrush). Everyone who needs support and solidarity deserves better than an abusive, opportunistic, ineffective cult whose only real goal is to elevate their own self-appointed leaders into further positions of power.
Tolerating cults and abusive groups ends here. And commitment to collective accountability and care replaces it.

Stand with all migrant survivors of violence. Stand with all survivors of violence.
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One thought on “18. Sexual & gendered violence – treatment of survivors in MFJ/RIL and BAMN/RWL

  1. […] 1.The truth about MFJ and RIL 2. The abuse of power in MFJ & RIL 3. What happened when I disclosed abuse in MFJ/RIL 4. The plain truth about RIL/MFJ and the sexist cult practices 5. Details and examples of RIL’s malpractice in migrant activism 6. #ShutDownYarlsWood – call out for action 7. Other survivor’s stories 2010-13 8. Testimonies about recent disclosure – N. 9. Testimonies about recent disclosure – NC. 10. Testimonies about recent disclosure – E. 11. Testimonies about recent disclosure – C. (no 12) 13. The request from the person disclosing abuse in October ’17 14. Testimonies from BAMN/RWL & why them and RIL/MFJ are a cult 15. Apologies 16. Support statements from human rights activist groups 17. What happened since we disclosed abuse 18. Sexual & gendered violence – treatment of survivors in MFJ/RIL and BAMN/RWL […]

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