‘He made me feel anxious and degraded’ – Jared O’Mara’s former employee after crude WhatsApp messages

A woman who claimed she was sexually harassed by outgoing Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara said she blew the whistle on his behaviour to ensure it doesn’t happen to anybody else.

Sunday, 28th July 2019, 12:58 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th July 2019, 12:58 pm
Jennifer Barnes.

Jen Barnes, aged 20, disclosed a series of Whatsapp messages she had received including one which was 17 paragraphs long in which she said Mr O’Mara told her ‘he loved her’.

The University of Sheffield politics graduate had only started working as a communications officer for the MP on June 10 as part of a fresh wave of staff in the MP’s new city centre office after he closed his old building and his staff were either sacked or walked out, with at least one tribunal pending.

Jennifer Barnes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i politics newsletter cut through the noise

But she said she began receiving ‘messages’ from Mr O’Mara ‘at strange times from day one’ before they became more and more ‘sexual’.

Ms Barnes said: “It’s been really stressful. Everyday I was waking up to one of his messages and he made me feel so anxious and degraded but I felt I had to put up with it.

“I knew that once I blew the whistle that I could no longer work for him. But I also knew at that point that Jared wasn’t doing any work, he was never in the office and I knew I couldn’t carry on. I also knew that Sheffield Hallam and the constituents deserved better than the little work Jared was doing.”

Ms Barnes, who lives in the Sheffield Hallam constituency, said she welcomed his announcement that he intends to resign once parliament resumes after the summer recess in September but cast doubt over whether the former music events organiser would stick to his word.

She added: “The news that he does at least intend to resign is welcome but I am worried that he is not going to be true to his word and, for me, it’s moved on to a bigger issue to see how we can stop this happening again and that measures are in place to ensure that.

“One of the reasons I decided to come forward and walk away is that I didn’t want it to happen to anybody else. I’m not saying that I’m going to change by speaking out but it’s one voice to try and move the system on.”

The former politics student, who only graduated last week, said she would be seeking advice on what form of action to take next regarding the sexual harassment claims.

But she added: “I think it’s more about campaigning and talking about the fact that there is sexual harassment training for MPs but it’s not mandatory.

“I felt like there was no mechanism in place that I could have gone to for help and the recall procedure is so difficult too. Jared would pretty much have had to have resigned and there was no process there for the constituents who weren’t being represented.”

Ms Barnes was one of the new members staff who joined alongside Gareth Arnold, who also quit in sensational fashion by posting a ‘foul-mouthed’ rant on Mr O’Mara’s own Twitter account.

He said he took the action as ‘something big needed to happen’.

Ms Barnes said: “Gareth has been very supportive through this process, especially at the beginning. He has sort of been the stop gap and when I first raised concerns with Gareth, I believe he spoke to Jared.

“I understand why he did what he did – it was out of frustration that we couldn’t make Jared understand the gravity of what he was doing and how he made me feel.”

Ms Barnes said she would be taking some time out before considering her next move.

She added: “I live in Sheffield Hallam and I know that if we had an MP that wanted to help people, we could have done so much more – it’s so frustrating.”

When asked for a comment about Ms Barnes claims, Mr O’Mara told The Star he intended to offer his resignation once parliament resumes after the summer recess.