I want to start this by saying I have a lot of respect for Bryony Frost for standing up and calling out what is appalling behaviour. The hard thing about bullying is that from the outside it might not look like bullying. But if the victim feels bullied, threatened or victimised, it is bullying. No one other than Bryony can say whether it was bullying or not.
My disappointment and anger comes from how this case has been covered by the media and of course social media. It has been a witch hunt. I do believe that Dunne was in the wrong here. I do believe that some of the people supporting him have also acted foolishly and should take a long hard look at themselves. But it seems anyone who gave evidence in support of Dunne has been vilified. It appears that so much of the case was made up of He Said, She Said. With on lookers recalling what they remember being said and happening. They can only offer their opinion on the situation.
From the articles I have read, no one supporting Dunne denied the words he said. They just gave their opinion on how they believed he meant them, how Bryony appeared after hearing them. For whatever reason, whether it was an honest mistake or deliberate choice to support a friend, they didn’t feel that Bryony was treated any differently to anyone else. Words what hurt one person may not hurt another. When people are hurt, they might not always show it. But people who have come forward have been treated appallingly by the media.
In particular, how some valets were reported in the media was hateful. Not only were they accused of condoning bullying behaviour. When they didn’t valet for Frost at Fontwell, because she was A) no longer a client of their company and B) they were upset about how they had been portrayed in the media after giving their testimony, their names were dragged further through the mud with headlines like “Fontwell valets refuse to work for Bryony Frost in wake of allegations.” When in reality, they just didn’t go out of their way to help someone who wasn’t a client.
On top of this, other jockeys, in particular female jockeys are being called cowards, liars and corrupt for not leaping to Bryony’s aid and giving evidence. Yes I am sure the weighing room is tight with constant rumours flying round. But if people didn’t see or hear things first hand how can they give reliable evidence? Also it appears the investigation started a long time after the initial incident. In a heated environment when angry words are probably a regular occurance, how can we expect people to accurately remember what was said?
When those who have been brave enough to speak out have had their names dragged through the mud for supporting who the media view as the wrong side, is it any wonder that more people haven’t come forward?
I hate the idea of anyone having to go through this. It’s worse when you hear how alone Bryony felt during this time. You do question where her support was. I do not want to take away from her at all and I completely believe that she was made to feel awful by Dunne. But he has been found guilty and suspended, which I think most of us can agree is the right thing.
But I feel that the media’s coverage has just turned the whole industry against each other. Suggesting that female jockeys are happy to throw her under the bus to have a quiet life. Suggesting that the weighing room is so toxic with masculinity that no one is brave enough to rock the boat, when in reality, the majority won’t have heard it first hand or only have caught parts of it.
Unfortunately, I am sure there are a few people who knew more but didn’t come forward. Whatever their reasons, they should have done more. Yes I do believe that the weighing room, much like any competitive changing room can be volatile and challenging. I imagine this is the same in many sports. This is another conversation and I am sure there are improvements to be made. But that doesn’t make everyone a bad person and you cannot tarr everyone with the same brush.
We know there is still sexism in racing and hopefully this incident will get people talking again so the industry can keep moving in the right direction. But I can’t help but feel that the media’s coverage of this story has not only been bad for racing, but been bad for women in racing.