A woman has alleged that she was raped by two male colleagues while working for the Confederation of British Industry.
The woman told The Guardian the incident occurred while she was working in an overseas office of Britain’s most prominent business lobby group.
She said she blamed the culture at the CBI for not having support after what she says happened to her.
This is the second woman to claim she was a rape victim at the CBI; she follows another member of staff who alleged that she was raped by a manager at a summer 2019 boat party on the River Thames.
Separately, The Guardian was told that a woman working in the organization’s London office was harassed by a male colleague in 2018. Sources said he followed her in person and tracked her down online, and that when she complained, the CBI launched an investigation.
The CBI is understood to have confirmed a finding of harassment.
However, sources claim that the woman was actively discouraged from reporting the harassment to the police and that the alleged perpetrator retained his job.
The CBI says it has reported further complaints to the police.
Last week, the City of London Police launched an investigation into a series of allegations made by more than a dozen women about misconduct by CBI managers.
The alleged rape victim reached out to The Guardian after reading claims made by other women working at the CBI.
She said she “had no one to turn to” with her allegations. at the time due to what she felt was a lack of HR support for workers outside the CBI headquarters in London.
After a night of drinking with colleagues, the woman claims she woke up with the two men in the same room as her.
She does not recall consenting to sexual activity with either of the two men and described in detail how physical signs led her to believe she had been raped. She claims the men then made comments suggesting they had engaged in sexual activity with her that she could not recall.
The alleged victim has also stated that she was presented, in the office, with an image of herself where she appeared to be unconscious.
She displayed a penis in her mouth, which she took to be that of one of her male colleagues who, according to her, raped her. She said she believed this photograph, which the Guardian has seen, was taken at the same time as the alleged rape of her.
A second source claimed that they remembered being given the photograph, that they also independently viewed and confirmed the content.
“Many people are raped. I don’t blame the CBI for being raped. She was very young and people took advantage of me after a night of drinking,” the alleged rape victim said.
“I blame the CBI for an atmosphere that nurtured people’s sense of confidence. That they could act in this way and then not feel worries or fear of the consequences. That they could somehow feel proud, in an office.
“That there was no one person to talk to in HR that I knew and could trust.
“I want to tell other women or men at the CBI that they do a great job. I hope you understand why I wanted to talk about it; what happened to me.”
To protect the woman’s identity, The Guardian chose not to report the date of the alleged incident or the precise international bureau to which it relates.
The CBI, which claims to represent 190,000 companies including Lloyds Bank and HSBC, and has regular interactions with the government, has been thrown into confusion by the volume and severity of the allegations.
The government has suspended its engagement with the group while the Fox Williams law firm carries out an investigation into them.
The business lobby group issued a public statement on Thursday and passed information to police about the Guardian investigation ahead of publication.
The statement read: “Yesterday afternoon, the CBI learned additional information related to a report of a serious criminal offence.” He added that the CBI was “in close contact” with the police.
Sources familiar with the same international office say there was a broader problem with harassment of junior female staff that fueled a toxic culture and recruitment processes. Human resources matters were handled in that office on an informal basis, often with little contact with the lobby’s London headquarters, they allege.
The separate accusation of stalking has been confirmed by the CBI.
The employee complained in 2018 that a male colleague was harassing her online and in person. The CBI said it launched an internal investigation and a finding of harassment was confirmed. However, sources familiar with the complaint say the woman was actively discouraged from reporting the harassment to the police.
Sources said the woman was asked to move desks and avoid the alleged harasser at work. HR told him to leave the office at a different time than the alleged stalker, the Guardian understands.
The CBI said that a sanction was imposed and the matter concluded and that there was no record of a desire on the part of the complainant to report the matter to the police.
The alleged stalker retained his role and left at a later date for unrelated reasons, The Guardian understands.
It is alleged that he admitted to the human resources investigation that he had sexual and violent feelings towards her and had followed her home. It is understood that the woman was not informed.
The CBI said it had no information on these specific allegations about the alleged perpetrator’s sexual and violent feelings, and there was no evidence that people were discouraged from filing police complaints.
Then-CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said she was unaware of the allegation made in early 2018.
Fairbairn told The Guardian: “’I am deeply shocked by this repulsive allegation. I have absolutely no knowledge that a complaint of this nature has been made. I have spent my career fighting for the safety and well-being of women in the workplace and addressing discrimination and injustice.”
She added: “It is appalling that this potential allegation has not been escalated. Any woman facing outrageous abuse of this kind deserves immediate care, protection and the full support of her employer and the law.”
CBI Chairman Brian McBride said in a statement: “These latest allegations made against us by The Guardian are abhorrent and our hearts go out to any woman who has been the victim of the behavior described. While the CBI was not aware of the more serious allegations, it is vital that they are fully investigated now and we are working closely with the police to help ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
He added that the lobby group expects results from the Fox Williams investigation “imminently.”
“The board will communicate its response to this and other steps we are taking to achieve the broader change that is needed early next week,” McBride said.
Speaking earlier this week, McBride said the fact that staff members shared their complaints about sexual misconduct with The Guardian rather than the CBI itself was a sign of problems within the organization.
“People decided to go to the newspapers and not talk to us directly, which in itself points to something wrong with our culture,” he said. “Why did people feel like they couldn’t stand up and introduce themselves?”
The CBI became embroiled in a public dispute earlier this week between McBride and its former CEO Tony Danker after he was fired from his post last week. Danker’s conduct was part of a separate investigation by Fox Williams that related to completely separate allegations about his conduct.
“The board lost confidence in his ability to lead the organization and represent the CBI in public,” McBride said of Danker’s firing.
Danker said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday that he felt he had been “made the scapegoat” for allegations unrelated to his own conduct and that his reputation had been “shattered”.