HOW allegations and denials are weighed is an issue at the heart of everything from the child abuse royal commission to the #metoo movement and the broad strokes of our legal system.
NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley’s tenure as the party’s leader became untenable on Thursday when ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper alleged Mr Foley’s denial of an incident between the pair at a 2016 Christmas party was a denial of the facts.
Ms Raper’s comments ran counter to Mr Foley’s “staunch” denial last month of what Mr Elliott alleged under parliamentary privilege. According to Ms Raper, Mr Foley later privately contacted her and discussed the same incident he publicly declared had not happened.
Mr Foley told reporters that he could not fight an election and clear his name at the same time. While he resigned as the state’s opposition leader, he stays on as an MP. In the hours before Mr Foley confronted the allegations, Labor colleagues were anonymously delivering assessments of their erstwhile leader to the media and rallying behind Michael Daley as his successor. "He's finished," one MP said of Mr Foley hours before he spoke for himself. "It's just a question of whether he goes with grace and dignity or he's dragged out.”
Another MP said they were “fuming” over Mr Foley’s denials, when he “made it very clear to us it didn’t happen”.
“Every single one of us are angry and disappointed,” that MP said.
Ms Raper said “the time has come for my voice to be heard” after Minister for Corrections David Elliott wielded the alleged incident as a political weapon on October 18. She alleges Mr Foley reneged on a private commitment to quit by Wednesday.
“Situations like mine should not be discussed in parliament for the sake of political point scoring,” Ms Raper said in her statement. “Women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour.”
The solution seems obvious: that people not be put in situations like the one facing Ms Raper, who was clear that she did not wish to be drawn into the public sphere and was dealing with the matter privately. Now it appears she may face a defamation action for coming forward.
“It is very difficult to measure the true extent ... as most incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault go unreported,” argues a 2006 review of literature and statistics around sexual assault and domestic violence. A public threat of legal action against a woman reluctantly offering her version of events is unlikely to send an encouraging message to those with doubts about coming forward.
Mr Foley says he will fight to clear his name, and Ms Raper notes that “a woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made”. The consequences are now clear.