Two former Liberal Party staffers have publicly claimed that they were assaulted by former colleagues, revealing shocking details of the alleged assaults they reportedly suffered whilst working for senior politicians within the party.
Chelsey Potter and Dhanya Mani spoke exclusively to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Tuesday evening about the alleged abuse they endured, calling for change in the culture of the party and hitting out at the lack of action taken to help them during their time of need.
Potter claimed she was at a sitting week in Canberra when a parliamentary staffer pinned her down and ripped off her underpants, while Mani alleged a NSW Liberal parliamentary staffer came to her house, forced himself on top of her, began masturbating and even started to choke her.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations both women claimed they were dismissed by senior party figures when they decided to speak out and did not choose to go to the police about the abuse, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Mani said she was even told by a senior Liberal woman not to pursue her complaints and “just go along with it” to avoid ruining her reputation.
The former staffer claimed she was told: “All that I can tell you is that if you decide to tell anyone else about this you are going to be slut shamed and your reputation will be ruined. Maybe you should go go along with it.”
Mani explained this left her feeling “completely disempowered” and said making a formal police complaint was not something she could withstand at the time. Meanwhile, Potter said she didn’t want to put her career and hard work at risk by going to the police.
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Since the women’s stories were shared the Morrison government has spoken out, explaining in a statement provided to The Sydney Morning Herald that any such allegation should be reported to the police.
“These allegations are deeply concerning and distressing,” a spokesperson told the publication. “We would encourage Ms Potter to contact the police so those claims can be investigated.
“There is no place for any form of bullying, intimidation or sexual harassment in any workplace and the Australian Parliament has strict protocols to eliminate or minimise the risks of such acts.
“Where a crime has been committed, it should be referred to the police.”
The names of the men accused of assault have not been revealed, however, according to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age they both strongly deny the allegations.
Their comments come as Liberal Party member Kathryn Greiner issued a call for change in culture within the political party, claiming in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald that the party is less female friendly than it was during the 1980s.
“It’s also about taking some of these young apparatchiks and having conversations with them about respect and sexism and understanding what bullying and harassment is all about,” she told the publication. “It is the conversation that we need to have in the broader community and it’s also the conversation we need to have within the Liberal Party.”
Starts at 60 reached out to the prime minister’s office prior to publication, however they refused to provide further comment.