20 Oct 2017

Overwhelming response to NZ #metoo Tumblr

From Checkpoint, 5:23 pm on 20 October 2017

A New Zealand woman has created a webpage for sexual harassment and abuse victims to anonymously share their experiences.

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Victims of sexual harassment have taken to social media to share their stories. Photo: 123rf

It comes after the emergence of the 'Me Too' campaign which has given a voice to thousands of women who have previously suffered in silence, advocates for sexual abuse victims say.

The campaign took off this week on Facebook and Twitter after dozens of women came forward with sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

And now a New Zealand woman, who RNZ has chosen not to name, has created page on Tumblr for victims to anonymously share their experiences.

She said the response has been heartbreaking and overwhelming.

Many victims were too scared to speak up publicly and the page gave them a chance to add their voice.

"The ability for people to reply and comment on them isn't there," she said.

"It's about what they have to say and giving them a voice rather than allowing people to comment on the experiences of others and criticise them - which is one of the main reasons people don't come forward."

Debbi Tohill, the executive director of Rape Prevention Education, said while social media could be negative, the campaign has been a game changer.

"It can be very empowering for women to know that many other women have experienced what they've experienced and ... can openly talk about it," she said.

Ms Tohill said the campaign showed sexual abuse did not discriminate and  existed in all walks of life.

Employment lawyer Barbara Buckett has represented clients who have suffered terrible sexual harassment in the workplace.

"I had a situation where [in] quite a big organisation their social club was used for what they called 'having access to new recruits' and the male members of the staff would have scorecards and they would email each other with sordid and graphic details about what had happened," she said.

Ms Buckett said social media could be a platform for victims to speak out when they would otherwise be shut down.

"In the workplace these things are kept behind closed doors and confined to a one-to-one situation or investigation," she said.

"Invariably the person who is making the complaint is usually censored."

Actress Robyn Malcolm speaks the Helen Kelly memorial service.

Robyn Malcolm Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Actress Robyn Malcolm is known for playing strong leads, including Westie mum and matriarch Cheryl West in Outrageous Fortune.

She said while the film industry in New Zealand did not have sexual harassment to the extent exemplified by Mr Weinstein's reportered behaviour, it still happened and it was something she had experienced.

"I remember my first job was a commercial and I remember the director saying, so that I could hear, 'It's wonderful that we cast her, she's got such lovely big tits'," she said.

Ms Malcolm hoped the Weinstein saga and the Me Too campaign would continue to change the way society treated sexual abuse.

"The fact that, what seems to have been one of the kings of this cretinous behaviour has toppled, is seismic for the industry and I hope for as part of the ongoing conversation we have about women and sexual equality and women in the workplace and how we treat women," she said.

The New York Times broke the story on sexual harassment allegations against Mr Weinstein two weeks ago.

It has since led to the media mogul being sacked from his own company, ousted from the Academy Awards and condemned by Hollywood.