Sue Backshall

Ashleigh Raper’s lack of a choice is the one we’ve all taken

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Ashleigh Raper felt that she had to keep quiet about what happened between her and Luke Foley. Often, saying nothing is the only option we have.

 

 

 

This afternoon, we registered the expanse of normalcy. Again we trudged through the great plains of sexual harassment in this country. This time, it involved an ABC journalist and the NSW Opposition Leader. In a statement not long since published by her employers, Ashleigh Raper outlined a particular evening in 2016, where the hand of Luke Foley ventured inside her underwear.

 

 

A solitary evening in 2016 might not seem a large deal in the grand scheme, but what happened between then and now is worth noting, as it is seemingly the normal course of action that is taken.

Raper opened the statement with her wishes in the interim years, in that “…this is a position I never wanted to be in and a statement I never intended to make.”

She never took action as she feared it would jeopardise her employment, stating: “I cherished my position as a state political reporter and feared that would be lost”…and that “…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.”

Both of those things are legitimate fears. However, this behaviour is not exclusive to the organs of state politics, we’re all subject to it. We’ve all faced situations where an act like this has happened, and in turn, we’ve had to compartmentalise the damage done, as we know how much worse it can get if we were to take it further.

I recognise the purported behaviour from Luke Foley, as it is verbatim to those who are caught, those who then attempt to mitigate the damage done, and in turn, save themselves, and in turn, diffuse the responsibility of the action. Per Raper’s statement, the issue was openly discussed in parliament (against her consent) last month, which resulted in a telephone call from Foley on November 4.

In Ashleigh’s words:

He said he was sorry and that he was full of remorse for his behaviour towards me at the Press Gallery Christmas function in November 2016.

He told me he had wanted to talk to me about that night on many occasions over the past two years because, while he was drunk and couldn’t remember all the details of the night, he knew he did something to offend me.

He apologised again and told me, “I’m not a philanderer, I’m not a groper, I’m just a drunk idiot”.

He said he would be resigning as the leader of the New South Wales Labor Party on either the next day (Monday, November 5) or Wednesday (November 7).

He said he couldn’t resign on the Tuesday because it was Melbourne Cup Day and he didn’t want to be accused of burying the story.

On Tuesday (November 6) Mr Foley called me again.

He informed me he’d received legal advice not to resign as Opposition Leader.

He indicated he intended to follow that advice.

There’s a couple of key phrases in that statement. The oscillating between resigning and not is one, but the other, particularly regarding the remorse that he felt over the intervening years, but not exactly sure of what, and indeed, not exactly enough to pick up the phone before a third party forced his hand. He was just a drunk idiot, that’s all.

I’m not speculating on the motivations of Luke Foley, it rings familiar, especially to those who have endured similar. Whatever happened, it won’t be touched until someone makes them touch it, and while they may lose their position (or not), the victims have to endure the marks of our aggressors. In my own small world, the workplace harassment I felt cost me my position. I was let go for unrelated reasons. I never said anything, but my enduring silence was deemed as a threat. The higher this person climbed, the more of a risk I was became.

For his sins, I was punished.

As Raper put it, “…women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour.”

Yes. The question must now surely turn to who else was involved.

Who in NSW Labor knew, and who else kept it quiet?

 

 

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