Harvey Weinstein scandal triggers sexual assault victims

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison.

The Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal in Hollywood has highlighted the problem of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.

So says Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison, the NSW shadow minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“A gender-equality movement has risen in the last few weeks around the treatment of women at work and the crossover between sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Ms Aitchison said.

“The prevalence of the #metoo hashtag on social media shows this.”

Coverage of stories like the Weinstein scandal can trigger sexual assault victims into flashbacks and mental anguish, she said.

“We need to make sure that government services can properly respond to that,” she said.

Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault and harassment.

Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault and harassment.

The Heraldreported in May that Ms Aitchison was a victim of sexual assault. 

She said the Weinstein story made her reflect on this ordeal and “the times I’ve been sexually harassed at work”.

In her 20s, she was harassed by a male superior in his 40s who was married with a child.

“I was shocked that it could happen and that he seemed to think it was OK.

“I left that role soon after to avoid seeing him again.”

She said many workplaces included men who sexually harass women.

Women fear that “if you complain, you are the problem”.

“Most victims don’t report it because the insidious nature of this type of abuse makes it difficult to report,” she said.

Women had the right not to be treated as sexual beings at work and to be seen as professionals.

“I think most women have been sexually harassed at work,” she said.

“At most workplaces I’ve worked at, I’ve had men make inappropriate comments to me.”

Female colleagues will say “be careful of this or that guy”.

A culture of respect should be fostered at “every level of the workplace”.

“Sexual harassment is on the same level as the manipulation, power and control used in domestic violence,” she said.