Many of us think sexual harassment in the workplace has become extinct. It hasn’t.
A few years ago, Melbourne accountant Jemma Ewin woke up after a night out with workmates with cuts and bruises and no memory of the night before.
Just weeks before the terrifying incident, she had complained to her employer, Living and Leisure Australia Ltd, that she was being sexually harassed by contractor Claudio Vergara, 40.
The response? To “get on with it”.
Ms Ewin, 36, still can’t remember exactly what happened that night – but she is adamant that she was drugged before passing out. A police investigation later found Mr Vergara’s semen on her shoes, and discovered that his swipe card had been used to enter their office at the same time Ms Ewin was there.
After the attack, Ms Ewin accused Mr Vergara of assaulting her – but Victorian Police decided not to charge him. After launching civil action against him, Ms Ewin was finally awarded a record $476,163 by the Federal Court in 2014.
The court found that Mr Vergara had sexually harassed her four times, and during the trial Mr Vergara admitted to kissing, touching and having “consensual sex”.
The judge ruled that Ms Ewin had been a victim of sexual harassment and that she and Mr Vergara had had sex in their office corridor, but rejected Mr Vergara’s claim that it was consensual.
Ms Ewin said that despite her landmark win, she has been unable to work since 2010 and that her life has been seriously affected by the attack.
Ms Ewin’s story will feature on tonight’s SBS Insight program, which is centered on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and how rife it still is.
Ms Ewin told Insight:
I believe that a sexual predator came to my workplace … I believe that what happened to me on that Friday night was premeditated.
This week’s programme will focus on women from many different professions who have all experienced harassment at work, as well as one man who has been accused of harassment.
Insight will air on SBS One at 8.30pm tonight.
Have you ever experienced sexual harassment at work? How would you deal with it if you did?
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