Former staffer speaks of sexual harassment in SA Parliament following damning report


*Emma was a contributor to the Equal Opportunity Commission report into the culture at South Australia’s Parliament.

She spoke to the ABC on the condition of anonymity. Names and political parties have been removed.

I was a junior staffer working in a political office when the sexual harassment began.

He was in his late 30s and held a senior party political role, I was 22 and just beginning my career.

We started off as friends and I appreciated his friendship and mentoring, but things soon changed.

He made the physical attention into a game, and would choose his moments, waiting until I was alone.

And as time went on, things got worse.

It stopped being once-off flirty moments and for the last 18 months it went far beyond flattering attention, it was full-blown sexual harassment.

He would approach me out of nowhere and catch me off guard and touch me or make really disgusting comments.

At one point I lost some weight and he commented on that to me and said I was “really bangable”.

On another occasion he commented on my dress and lamented that he couldn’t rip it off me later that night.

People thought in the office that we were sleeping together as he referred to me as “his bit on the side”.

We weren’t and his attention was not welcome.

There’s no human resources department in political offices

I started to report his behaviour up to my chief of staff, and my boss didn’t dismiss me, but he said he didn’t even know what to do with the information.

The office manager said there were very little processes in place to deal with harassment in political offices.

I was told to not let it get to me.

One day he approached me from behind and slapped me on the bum and I’d had enough —  I told him to never touch me again and that’s when the gaslighting began.

Later in my employment I discovered that the same person acted inappropriately towards several other women, but because no-one talked about it and we had no outlet to deal with it, he got away with it.

My problem was not that I couldn’t speak up about what was happening, but that there was no outlet through which to do it.

There was nothing in place to support me or my managers to deal with the situation.

There’s no human resources department in political offices.

And the fear of speaking up is more than the potential repercussions on your career —  it could affect something you fundamentally believe in — the political party that you work for.

Those values are not just a job, they are something you hold true to yourself and when you speak out, you speak out against your movement.

The Equal Opportunity review has offered some hope

I don’t let it get me down, but the allegations raised about sexual assault and harassment in Federal Parliament and the Equal Opportunity Commission review into sexual harassment in South Australia’s Parliament have certainly brought the memories all back to me.

I participated in the Equal Opportunity Commission review and I’m really encouraged by what it says.

Having clear guidelines and this behaviour called out is really important for stopping it.

It’s about giving people a clear pathway to deal with complaints.

And it’s about helping women speak out and raise awareness so that others can too.

Thank you for stopping by and reading this story involving the latest SA news items titled “Former staffer speaks of sexual harassment in SA Parliament following damning report”. This news update was presented by My Local Pages as part of our Australian news services.

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