ABC reporter's statement on Luke Foley: 'The impact I feared is being felt'

‘The impact I feared is being felt profoundly’: ABC reporter’s statement on Luke Foley

The worst part is that the worst part is not necessarily a man putting his hand down a woman’s dress and into her underpants without consent.

It’s what that woman has endured since.

On Thursday the ABC reporter Ashleigh Raper issued a public statement about an incident she alleges took place in November of 2016. The man at the centre of her statement is the NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley who has resigned from the leadership position but denies the allegations. Foley has flagged his intention to pursue defamation proceedings.

After the incident took place at the Press Gallery Christmas function Raper says she discussed it with a male reporter who witnessed it, whom she asked to say nothing about it. He agreed.

She didn’t want to make a public complaint “for a number of reasons”.

“It is clear to me that a woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made.
I cherished my position as a state political reporter and feared that would be lost.
I also feared the negative impact the publicity could have on me personally and on my young family.
This impact is now being felt profoundly.”

Everything she feared has been realised and she didn’t even make a complaint.

Earlier this year a reporter contacted Raper and asked about the alleged incident. She said she didn’t want to say anything.

At that time she told her employer, the ABC, who she says provided her with terrific support and honoured her desire not to make a public complaint.

Her wishes didn’t matter.

Last month a Liberal MP, David Elliot, raised the incident in the NSW parliament, putting it in the public domain.

Raper didn’t ask to be groped. She didn’t ask to have the indignity she suffered to be used for political point scoring. She didn’t ask for the incident to be dragged into the public domain. To the contrary, but her wishes didn’t matter.

It is chilling to consider Raper’s experience.

Had she chosen to make a public complaint – back in 2016 when the conduct allegedly occurred –  it is difficult to imagine the experience would have been productive or positive. She would have opened herself up to the scrutiny victims of sexual harassment inevitably face should they make the conduct known.

Was she drunk? What was she wearing? What is she trying to gain? Who put her up to it? Did she misunderstand? Probably just wants attention. It’s her word against his. 

History shows that victims of sexual harassment who speak out have rarely been greeted with trust. Suspicion tends to reign.

And this alleged misconduct took place pre- #MeToo, not that the post #MeToo world is necessarily more nuanced in considering allegations of harassment.

The Geoffrey Rush defamation trial currently underway in Sydney, in which another woman who didn’t want to publicly complain is unwittingly at the centre of a very public trial thanks to a newspaper article detailing her private allegations, makes this clear.

As SMH columnist Jacqueline Maley observed earlier this week it’s easy to forget it’s a publication on trial, not Eryn Jean Norvill.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t has never rung so true as it does for women who have been harassed by men in power.

Even when they deliberately choose not to open themselves to the scrutiny and suspicion of making a public complaint they can get dragged through the mud.

Raper says there are three things she wants to come from her decision to make a statement.

“First, women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour.
And I want it to stop.
Second, situations like mine should not be discussed in parliament for the sake of political point scoring.
And I want it to stop.
Third, I want to get on with my life.”

It’s a travesty that the alleged unwanted conduct of another person has the capacity to put an innocent woman in a position where she needs to ask to get on with her life.

When it happens not because anyone involved is concerned with her welfare or experience but because they are seeking to bring down a political opponent? There aren’t words.

It is utterly shattering to consider that sexual harassment is only considered a legitimate problem when it can be used a pawn for those seeking power.

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