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Students rally to call out sexual violence in the workplace

Students rally to call out sexual violence in the workplace and demand firms do better

Hundreds of students have taken their fight for workplaces free from sexual violence and harassment to the doorstep of Wellington’s professional services.

An estimated 300 tertiary students and supporters marched from Victoria University’s Law School, to Midland Park, on Lambton Quay, protesting the inadequate response from Russell McVeagh to allegations of sexual assault, and asking that all workplaces do better.

Bethany Paterson, fifth year VUW law student and VUWSA Welfare Vice President says students and graduates deserve more from their current and future employers.

“I've not studied law for four years to be assaulted and harassed in the workplace.

“The support here today shows just how much we need to be having this conversation with the right people, right now.”

At the march, student leaders from the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association, Victoria University of Wellington Law Students’ Society and VUW Feminist Law Society presented a “student to-do list” which asked for all legal firms to improve the way they dealt with sexual assault and harassment.

As a result of students’ concerns, Wellington Central MP and Minister for Finance Grant Robertson has contacted VUWSA in support of of the Kaupapa of Thursday’s march, and said he was keen to sit down with students to discuss how to achieve safer workplaces.

Victoria University of Wellington staff showed their support with Vice Chancellor Grant Guilford addressing students at the front of the Law School, before they marched down Lambton Quay, encouraging them to report all instances of sexual assault, and the University with throw their full support behind survivors.

Students were also joined at the rally by Employment Lawyer Steph Dhryberg, Faculty of Law lecturer Yvette Tinsley and Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons who all applauded the courage of young students and graduates for coming forward and calling out a culture which has persisted for too long.

The Students’ To-Do List:

Preventing sexual harassment and assault

- Consent education for all staff, focusing on power imbalances and alcohol

- Clear and transparent process for sexual assault and harassment reporting

Victim-centric approach

- The victim will be treated with dignity and respect, and will be at the centre of the process - their views and response comes first

- Counselling will be offered to the victim

Report to New Zealand Law Society

- Every serious incident of sexual assault and/or harassment will be reported to the New Zealand Law Society, so that they can fulfil their role to regulate all lawyers

Cut ties to perpetrators

- On every serious incident of sexual assault and/or harassment, the law firm’s relationship to the perpetrator will be terminated - and this fact will not be kept secret

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