Women's Safety

Published on: March 2021

Record: HANSARD-1323879322-115846

Women's Safety

Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (18:02:42):

The number one issue raised with me in recent weeks in my own community is the safety of women from all walks of life in schools, homes, workplaces and even walking home at night and during the day. These are current and former school students in my community. I acknowledge the efforts that they are making to bring forward their stories and share them with us. I also acknowledge that this is an issue across our entire community, but I will obviously be speaking as the member for North Shore and look at their reflections today and what we can do to address these challenges. I acknowledge the work that the schools in my community are undertaking to ensure that we make our world safer in the future, particularly for women.

We have just concluded NSW Women's Week, a week in which we talk a lot about sharing information and celebrating women's achievements. It coincides with International Women's Day, whose theme this year was Choose to Challenge. We talk about being able to choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, and that we can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements and collectively help create an inclusive society. This intense focus we have had over the past few weeks and months on the safety and autonomy of women in our community shows that this challenge we are choosing for this NSW Women's Week and International Women's Day has to be about addressing the reasons that women still feel unsafe and are unsafe across our community. We are hearing the brave voices of many women and girls who are disclosing experiences of sexual assault. There are too many stories and too many girls and women being assaulted at schools, in workplaces and in their homes. Their safety is put at risk as they travel home from work or from being out. These voices are of not only those women; they are voices of men and boys recognising the enabling culture surrounding sexual assault.

Along with some of my parliamentary colleagues across parties, I have been supporting Chanel Contos' initiative to teach consent earlier and more holistically in our schools. People in this place would know that Chanel Contos started an initiative on Instagram, a platform with which not many members of Parliament, including me, are particularly au fait, where she asked whether people had experienced sexual assault during or after their schooling. She was flooded with responses, over 5,000 to date. They are being put on her website over time. She has a petition calling for sex education to cover issues including toxic masculinity, rape culture, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, sexual coercion, enthusiastic consent and queer sex. There is an ePetition before the Parliament calling for an urgent reform to require sexual consent to be enthusiastic consent. We know that consent starts with respect for other human beings and the autonomy of their bodies.

I acknowledge the member for Newtown, Jenny Leong, who is sponsoring the petition started by Chanel, a former Kambala student. Her initiative has now gone across the entire community. I believe that we as members of Parliament owe it to the young people who have made brave efforts to disclose these instances of abuse and assault, to listen to their voices and deliver on the societal and structural changes that we and the young people need and deserve. I want to put on the parliamentary record the testimonies of two people who attended schools in my community. This is from a person who graduated at Redlands in 2007:

The more testimonies I've read, the more memories have been coming back from high school and house parties and the awful situations I found myself in. A boy in my year (year10) made me travel across Sydney one night to hang out and because I went, was I at fault? He had sex with me where I just lay there and wanted it to be over and after I ran to the bus stop not sure what had just happened to me.

Times where I’ve been poured way too many drinks by boys in the year above and being made to do things I didn’t want to do. Shore boys on the train surrounding me and putting their hands up my school uniform and me laughing nervously and then ducking out at my stop with my heart pounding.

The more I think about it, these repressed memories come back, I’m so thankful we can finally speak about it.

This is from a student from Monte:

I was assaulted by a guy from a co-ed school. I didn’t think it was assault because I didn’t say no. I wasn’t actively pushing him away. But I was scared to do so. He had been kicked out of his house and had asked for a place to stay so of course I said yes. I had been on a date that day with a guy I was into. We decided to watch a movie and as soon as it started he shoved his hand down my pants and did not stop. I was too scared to say anything because he was under the influence of three different types of drugs. I couldn’t sleep in my bed for a week after that.

These are the stories we need to hear. We need to act. Please support our petition calling for our young students to be taught consent.

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