MPs using sexual assault as 'political football' not leading by example: Marama Davidson and charity founder

Source: 1News

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and the founder of the Aunties charity agree that New Zealand’s top house of power is not leading by example when it comes to attitudes about sexual assault and victims of sexual assault.

Aunties founder Jackie Clark said there is a “political debacle going on in Parliament using a woman who’s been sexually assaulted as a political football” after Speaker Trevor Mallard used parliamentary privilege earlier this week to accuse a former staffer of sexual assault.

Mallard had previously apologised to the same man for falsely accusing him of rape, and he wouldn't repeat the "sexual assault" allegation yesterday outside Parliament, where he wouldn't be immune from court action.

Police told 1 NEWS yesterday the assault allegation had previously been "fully investigated", resulting in "no formal charges".

But the debate itself in Parliament was problematic, Clark told Breakfast today. 

“Right at the top in our houses of power. That stuff needs to change and change quite quickly,” she said.

“If it’s not looked at from the top, then what is the point actually?”

Davidson agreed with Clark, saying the debate in Parliament on Tuesday night had left staffers at Parliament feeling unsafe about coming forward to report potential sexual assaults.

“It was appalling actually that the National Party has chosen in effect to send out a really clear message: Don’t raise your hand, don’t ask for help, don’t report sexual assault, sexual violence, incidences of violence because we are going to drag you through the highest debating chamber of the land.

“And we are going to send out a message that we are siding with the person who has caused the harm, the person who has done the assault.”

Davidson admitted the Prime Minister was right in saying there had been fault on both sides.

“I acknowledge that all MPs have been given a privilege and an honour, at the very least we cannot perpetuate the same attitudes of violence in the highest debating chamber of the land,” she said.

“I’ve already heard in that workplace at a staff member level that people are feeling, because of that debacle, that they wouldn’t be confident in coming forward if any violence or assault incidents were to happen in the workplace because of what has played out.

“Because they don’t feel that they would be taken seriously, that they will be mocked in the debating chamber by people with the massive privileged positions.”

The debate on Breakfast comes ahead of a Government announcement this morning at Ngā Whare Waatea marae in Māngere around new kaupapa to engage communities around violence and sexual assaults.

Davidson, who leads the prevention of family violence and sexual violence portfolio, said it was clear Government and its agencies needs to “do things differently”.

She said the “evidence is very clear, the whānau-led solutions, the community-led solutions are what will truly eliminate family violence and sexual violence”.

Clark said the kaupapa gave her hope that something substantial could be done to address domestic violence.

“You talk to the perpetrators of violence who are often themselves victims of violence and the current victims. When you do that you’re actually telling them your voice is important,” she said.

“They’ve been with safe houses, they’ve been with agencies — that’s not worked for them and their families because they’re piecemeal solutions. If Marama can get this right — no pressure, darling — then we’re on the road to somewhere. That gives me hope.

“People ask me all the time how do we get rid of DV and I say good luck, but this gives me hope.”

When asked about the justice system — where to only 31 per cent of rape charges led to a conviction last year, the lowest rate in New Zealand seen in 10 years — Davidson said there needs to be a “culture change”.

“A culture change, an attitude that moves away from tolerating, affirming, normalising domestic violence and sexual violence, that includes attitudes towards women.”