real life

Jessica was sexually assaulted in a boardroom at work. Now she's trying to change the law.

Warning: This post deals with sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.

What happened to Jessica Wilson in a boardroom in November 2016, sent her into the darkest point in her life. 

She was 25, the CEO and founder of a very successful fashion brand, and she was busy raising capital for her next expansion of the business when she was sexually assaulted by a prospect investor. 

The attack floored her. 

"I had never come up against a trauma like that before, nor was I equipped on how to handle it. 

"I was in a state of shock for a pretty decent amount of time," she explained. 

But that was only the start. 

While trying to seek justice, Jess found herself facing hurdles and roadblocks in the Australian justice system that left her confused and deflated. Like many survivors before her, that frustration has since turned into a plight for reform. 

This is her story. 


Jess was destined to become a CEO. 

Aged eight, she started her first business selling cow poo fertiliser for a dollar less than the nursery up the road.

Her family lived in a small country town just outside of Coffs Harbour, NSW, and by the age of 15 she had upped her game. 

After the school principal refused to hold a formal afterparty, Jess decided to host her own for her Year 10 cohort on her family's paddock - bringing in all the food, entertainment and music to turn it into a proper event. 


It was a huge success, so she started outsourcing the space for 16ths, 18ths and 21sts at a cost. 

Jessica has been an entrepreneur from a young age. Image: Instagram.

"I think it's how I was wired," she told Mamamia. "I've never had a normal job in my life, I've only ever done this... started businesses or worked for entrepreneurs."

By the age of 22, she'd launched Stashd after seeing a gap in the fashion and tech industries. 

"There wasn't a very unique shopping experience online for mobile, it was all on a desktop. So I thought, you know what - I am going to book a one-way ticket to Silicon Valley and just figure this out."


What she started was essentially 'Tinder for fashion' and it was extremely successful - expanding to 130 countries.

Appearing on the Chinese reality TV Series called The Next Unicorn, only further catapulted her success as the show was streamed to 15 million people per episode. The show was a hybrid between Shark Tank and The Apprentice and helped introduce her to the booming Chinese market.

As Stashd pivoted to go after the Chinese consumer, they needed to raise more capital, a task Jess was, by now, very used to doing. 

"For Stashed, I was in between two and four boardrooms a day," she told Mamamia.

So when she found herself alone in a boardroom with a prospect investor in November 2016, she was perfectly comfortable. 

"It was a normal day. I walk into boardrooms every day. [But] walking out of that boardroom, I knew that my life was going to completely change. 

"I knew it was very bad as soon as I left, and it really sent me on a downward spiral." 

That day, in that room, Jess was sexually assaulted by someone twice her age. 

Watch: Jess tell her story, in her own words. Post continues after post.

Video via Women Making Waves:

After the shock subsided, she mustered up the courage to tell a trusted mentor what had happened. 

"What they said to me was 'Jess, put your head down. Focus on the business and when you are more successful, you can do something about it then,'" she said.

In the following months, Jess's mental health deteriorated and she sought out professional help. She did also report the assault to police, something that, in itself, was extremely traumatic. 

"I actually went to the police station eight times to finish the police report, I was that intimated by the whole situation," she said. 

She then met with over a dozen different lawyers and law firms to talk through her options (in boardrooms, which was, again, re-traumatising). 

"They would say to me, 'yes, we believe what you're saying. We believe you're telling the truth, but it's not about the truth, it's about the law and how the law is structured. And there's no way that you will win because of how the law is structured,'" she recalled.

Jess worked out pretty quickly that pursing criminal charges wasn't feasible given the amount of evidence she had. A civil case would be her best chance at justice.

In 2018, she was ready to make that happen and for 18 months she worked with lawyers, barristers, Queen's counsel, psychologists, psychiatrists and different experts. 


"Balancing the jargon and your emotions is the hardest part. So for me, my mental wellbeing became a non-negotiable in that I knew I had to keep myself as level-headed as possible to be able to navigate it, because I had to make informed decisions in an industry that's very heavy on the jargon and that I didn't understand, [while] also keeping myself level-headed in the sense that I'm talking about my biggest trauma in my life every single day."

She can see exactly why survivors give up.

"Because it's confronting," she said. "Super confronting."

Three years on from the assault she won and was awarded a confidential settlement, but it was a long, arduous journey to victory. 

"I remember feeling like I could breathe again," she told Mamamia. 

'Our laws were established 120 years ago.' 

Always the entrepreneur, finding a way to tackle the justice system herself was already a "twinkle in her eye" as Jess navigated her own case.

"I remember thinking 'this is just ridiculous how hard this is,'" she said.

One of her lawyers connected her to journalist, author, sexual assault survivor advocate and LetHerSpeak creator, Nina Funnell, who introduced her to the world of law reform. Jess was blown away by what Nina had been able to achieve, and so Women Making Waves was born. 

Her new business, co-founded with global business and impact leader Hayley Evans, raises funds through NFTs to take on sexual assault legislation.

Listen: To Jess and Nina on The Quicky. Post continues.


They're selling a 10,000 piece digital art collection that uses NFT technology - with the funds raised to help not just Nina's work, but other advocates in this space to change laws. They're also working on a digital platform that gives survivors access to expertise in this space, as well as mental health support. 

In recent years there's been a huge wave of cultural uproar when it comes to issues like violence against women and domestic violence, and how those issues are treated by both society and the law. 

As Jess explained, "there are millions of people who feel like this. In my mind, we're all sharing these stories which is an important step..."

She trusted Nina to tell her story first, as she did for last week. 

"But what's the next step and what do we do next?" said Jess.

"This isn't just about me, it's not just about my story - it's about every single woman coming together and saying - the fact that our laws were established 120 years ago is outdated, and this is something that we can actually tangibly do about it," she told Mamamia. 

Find out more about Women Making Waves here.

Find out more about the LetHerSpeak campaign, here.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature image: Supplied/Jessica Wilson.