So often, the trauma of what happens after an horrific episode of assault, abuse or harassment can be as devastating as the original episode itself.
And while much of the focus lately has been on the allegations raised by Brittany Higgins, another woman in politics who understands this is Emma Husar, the former Labor MP who in her own words was “slut shamed” in 2018 with contested sordid allegations of her behaviour.
A salacious article published by Buzzfeed claimed she had bragged about her sexual relations, sexually harassed an employee and exposed herself to a colleague.
Ms Husar sued for defamation and the matter was later settled out of court.
On Wednesday, she wrote an open letter to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, turning the attention to Labor’s problems with women and criticising the party’s “deadly” silence following the allegations that were levelled at her.
A strong woman stands up for herself, then she stands up for others.
Thank you to all the women who are telling their stories. The Culture of silence is dangerous & exists on all sides of Politics.#auspol #BrittanyHiggins pic.twitter.com/51JuAe1haB
— Emma Husar (@emma_husar) February 23, 2021
“I have been galled watching my former colleagues speak out, yet were silent bystanders when I endured such horrendous treatment,” Ms Husar wrote in her letter.
“The Labor Party cannot pretend that poor treatment of women exists on only one side of the political divide.”
7.30 reached out to Mr Albanese for a response but did not receive a reply.
A problem on both sides
“The Labor Party have ridden their sanctimonious high horses like it’s not happening on the Labor side – but were absolutely complicit with their silence in 2018,” Ms Husar told 7.30.
The experiences of both Ms Higgins and Ms Husar are reflective of the employment structures used in federal politics, including the Member of Parliament (Staff) Act, which leaves staff under the control of their masters and at risk of being immediately sacked without a reason being given.
Ms Husar also said she was devastated by the lack of support from her party.
“In terms of their duty of care, there was none, and no support was offered,” Ms Husar told 7.30.
“They were all complicit. They all sat there. They all knew that it was wrong.
“They didn’t want me speaking out and they did everything that they could to shut me up.
“Mostly they were the media unit attached to the Leader of the Opposition’s office … predominantly doing their job on behalf of their MPs, in a way of politically protecting the leader, which again, goes to the point that we’ve talked about the last two weeks.
“Issues against women of mistreatment, sexual harassment, sexual assault are treated as a political issue.”
While Ms Husar is no longer in Canberra, she continues to feel the fallout from the events of 2018.
“Coming forward and speaking out about this, it’s not easy,” Ms Husar said.
“It’s something that … there will be ramifications for.
“You google my name, and there are over 2000 related articles about that time in 2018.
“That’s the other way that women are forced to stay silent.”