real life

"He rubbed his face on my chest." 5 women tell their story of sexual harassment at work.

Warning: This post deals with sexual assault and harassment and could be triggering for some readers.

This week, two women bravely shared their experiences of being sexually assaulted by senior politicians in the Liberal Party half a decade ago.

Their descriptions, as told to the Sydney Morning Herald and The Ageare graphic and shocking.

Chelsey Potter joined the party aged 16 and was working for a minister in 2015. She says that he once restrained her and removed her underwear during a sitting week in Canberra. He only stopped when she started yelling.

Dhanya Mani was working for the speaker in NSW parliament in 2015 when she alleges a fellow staff member came to her house, tried to undo her jeans, and began masturbating.

Both women told SMH they raised the incidents at the time with their superiors, but were dismissed.

They’ve decided to speak publicly now to try and pave the way for a more robust, transparent and confidential internal complaints process for the Liberal Party.

Unfortunately Dhanya and Chelsey aren’t alone. In fact, the disturbing reality is incidences of sexual assault are increasing.

Last year, the number of recorded (so just imagine how ballooned this figure could be if we included those who don’t speak out) sexual assault victims increased for a seventh consecutive year to 26,312 victims. 

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84 per cent of those victims were female, and half were aged between 10 and 19.

Women and Violence: The hidden numbers. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

If we look at sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, 2018 Roy Morgan research shows one in three workers in Australia have experienced harassment in the past five years, an increase from one in five in 2012.

We’ve decided to follow Dhanya and Chelsey’s lead and speak out, because these figures and their increases year on year are completely unacceptable.

Here are five women’s stories from the Mamamia community:

Shelby

I worked in a casino when I was 19. I asked my manager at the staff Christmas party for a lighter and as I bent down to take it from his hand he put his hand up the front of my top and grabbed my breasts.

I pulled back and told him that was inappropriate… he just laughed. I spoke to his superiors telling them I didn’t feel comfortable working under him directly and explained why.

Their response was to tell me that there wasn’t really anything they could do about it, it wasn’t really that bad and that they would just roster me on in different areas from that point on.

One night I checked where I was working and saw I was scheduled in his area.

I spoke to another manager about it and they said they didn’t have any other options as it was a busy night so I just had to suck it up… I was only 19, so I did.

Polly

Kate

I was sexually harassed at work when I was 17. The harasser was my boss, a man in his mid 30s.

One night, in tears, I confessed what was happening to my mum. On her advice I called my union.

They were fantastic, I felt supported and safe. When the allegations came to light, multiple women came forward and said it happened to them too.

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It was 2003 and I was terrified of speaking up but now, as a 32 year old, I am so proud of myself for speaking up.

Gabby

That was about 16 years ago and I still feel sick if I ever have to drive through the suburb, even though the lunch bar is no longer there.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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