30 Apr 2018

'I was very upset and angry that I had been violated'

9:58 am on 30 April 2018

A lawyer who says she was raped by a senior male colleague while summer clerking, is telling her story to encourage others to come forward.

No caption.

Photo: 123RF

The Wellington Women Lawyers' Association has drawn up an anonymous survey asking people to detail any sexual assault or harassment they experienced while working in law, even if they're now out of the profession.

The new survey - which can be found here - was said to be broader and more detailed than similar surveys carried out this year, and would ask those filling it in to name where they were working when they encountered harassment or sexual violence.

Charlotte Shade was in her early 20s when she was assaulted by a senior colleague at a former workplace after a function.

She was drunk and put in a taxi with the man, who said he'd see her home safely.

"I ended up waking up at his house in a very compromised position. I was very, very upset and angry that I had been violated.

"The issue for me at that stage was whether I make a big deal about it, because I was very clear that I had not consented to any sort of sexual intercourse... I just couldn't bring myself, I suppose, to fight him then and there.

"It seemed like a risky thing to do for my career, and everything else that I was doing in my life at that time, and so I kept quiet - I didn't say anything."

The man left the firm soon after the incident, and Ms Shade no longer worked there either.

In speaking out Ms Shade wanted to give other women the confidence to be able to speak about their own similar experiences.

In the survey people would be asked to name where they worked - and if names of particular firms kept coming up - the association would contact them to let them know.

Many workplaces were not aware if there was a culture of sexual harassment and assault - and those in charge needed to be told, Ms Shade said.

Employers would not be publicly named.

The idea of the survey was not to go after individual people, Ms Shade said, but to create a culture change.

The New Zealand Law Society had a survey ending today, and the Criminal Bar Association released its findings into a survey on harassment and bullying in March.

They all followed revelations of sexual assaults and inappropriate sexual conduct involving interns and senior lawyers at a leading public law firm, Russell McVeagh.

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