Parliament bullying: Mallard urges rape victims to seek support

by RNZ / 22 May, 2019
Speaker Trevor Mallard at the release of the report into bullying at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Speaker Trevor Mallard at the release of the report into bullying at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

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Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard says it's his impression from the report on bullying at Parliament that people have been raped there, and he is urging the victims to go to police or support agencies.

The independent report by Debbie Francis - ordered by Mr Mallard after a series of cases of bad behaviour - was scathing in its denouncement of a culture of serious bullying and harassment at Parliament.

As well as rife bullying and harassment since at least October 2014, the first-of-its-kind report found sexism, racism and unreasonably aggressive behaviour by and between staff, managers, MPs, media and the public - and a system that protects the perpetrators.

Read the full report here

Some of the most serious accusations included allegations of sexual harassment, including three cases of serious sexual assault.

Mr Mallard told Morning Report's Susie Ferguson it was his interpretation that people had been raped at Parliament.

"We're talking about serious sexual assault, well that, for me, that's rape ... that is the impression I get from the report, yes."

He said his reading of the report was that the offences were all committed by one person, and said he did not know who that person was.

He admitted that having them tell their story over and over again was a problem with the court system, "which I know people are looking at, at the moment".

"I'm not aware whether they're MPs or staff. Reading the report carefully I get the sense that the man is still on the premises ... I don't know who it is, if I knew who it is I would tell the police."

He was not sure if the perpetrator had been identified to police and said the report was carried out with an expectation of privacy, but urged the victims to go either to police or support agencies and report the assaults.

"The complaints were made under the absolute condition that none of that would be passed on. You can't have women come on that certain basis and make complaints and then totally betray their trust.

"If a particular name of an offender is passed on and there are three complainants it will be obvious that one of those three have passed it on and that will breach their confidentiality. If the offender's name is out there the offender will know that it's been passed on.

"What they [the police] said is in these circumstances if complaints have been received they are not going to make public comment unless they have clearance from claimants to do that.

"What I'm really hoping is that people actually go either directly to the police or to rape crisis or other support agencies who can give them proper support in this. Frankly, having them retraumatised by this sort of conversation isn't that useful."

It was his belief the attacks happened within the past four and a half years.

"Because there was an ability to go back further if people brought things up with Debbie Francis it might be longer than that, but it's clearly been over multiple years."

Taking action: Response to the report

The report makes 85 recommendations. Mr Mallard would not commit to taking on every recommendation from the report, but said he wanted to take on "the vast majority".

"I think there are some ... that are gonna be quite hard, and some that I want to go further than the recommendations.

"At an early part of it I'm going to have much better reporting to party leaders and chief executives around staff turnover and sudden departures. I think at the moment there's a habit of giving people money and getting them to sign non-disclosure agreements - sort of hush money, if you like - and hoping that it all goes away. From my perspective that's just not acceptable and that's going to be one of the early changes."

He said what he was trying to do was to move Parliament away from a system where bullying of all kinds was an open secret.

"The full implementation will take a number of years, but action has already been taken against a couple of [MPs]. their leaders are aware of that ... action has been taken while the report was ongoing because ... the extent of bad behaviour and the fact that in some cases interventions were necessary and couldn't wait until the report came out."

He said he had a sense of who some of the bullies were.

"Based on rumour and anecdote as opposed to evidence - except for a couple of members, who I'm dealing with - I know that there are some senior staff members - both political staff and administrative staff - that have been bullies in the past. Some of them are still here and some of them are not."

He refused to identify particular perpetrators - as the report was done under the understanding complaints would be anonymous - but said he thought they would be identified in future.

However, he also accepted that asking people to tell their stories repeatedly could be retraumatising in itself. He said that was a problem with the court system, "which I know people are looking at, at the moment".

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 - 0

For female survivors:

Help Wellington, 048016655

Help, Auckland 09 623 1296.

For male survivors:

Road Forward Trust, Wellington, contact Richard 0211181043

Better Blokes Auckland, 099902553

The Canterbury Men's Centre, 03 3776747

The Male Room, Nelson 035480403

Male Survivors, Waikato 07 8584112

Male Survivors, Otago 0211064598

For urgent help: Safe To Talk 0800044334.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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