TW: this article contains discussion of sexual assault and harassment.
This week Tracey Spicer sparked a major conversation around insidious sexual assault in Australian media, when she linked the unfolding #metoo social campaign to the industry's long silenced issues. Responding to the unfolding allegations of assault in the US entertainment industry, which have centred around Harvey Weinstein and Amazon Studios head Roy Price, the journalist tweeted: "Interesting that punishment often seems swift in the US corporate, media and entertainment space, but not in Australia."
Spicer detailed her own experiences of sexual harassment at work in her recent memoir The Good Girl Stripped Bare. Specifically she wrote about the actions of former Nine News director John Sorell, who once told her "I want two inches off your hair and two inches off your arse!" But now she's calling on individuals to share their experiences, announcing that "I am investigating two long-term offenders in our media industry," and calling on others to contact her privately to share their stories.
Within 24 hours, Spicer had received hundreds of responses relating specifically to harassment within Australian media. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she said she was aware of "30 to 40 alleged offenders so far," most of whom were household names. The vast majority of them, she said, "would have more than one case against them."
As part of Spicer's upcoming report, she has vowed to reveal the names of "long-term offenders" across the industry. But she also stressed to the Australian that blame doesn't lie solely with the perpetrators and "serial predators". She's also focusing on those who have enabled and excused harassment and abuse in the workplace: "They deserve to be held to account after the way that they have behaved over many decades … We're actually looking at prosecutions, as well as exposing these people."
Her investigations have tied closely to the unfolding #metoo, #HowIWillChange and #IDidIt social campaigns which have seen individuals impacted by sexual assault speak about their experience. While much of the conversation has been made up of people talking about actions made against them, increasingly those responsible, or compliant, in assault and harassment are also opening up about their role. Ben Law, who started #HowIWillChange, has been encouraging others to share active ways they're going to be better allies to victims.
But although the campaign has created a global conversation about how we allow assault to be normalised, it's also drawn criticism for placing the responsibility on victims to bare painful memories as a tithe to the public dialog. Additionally, some have suggested it offers an easy way for those responsible to atone for their mistakes.
By vowing to use the movement as fuel for her own investigation, however, Spicer is an illustration of how social action can spur real industry change. In her conversation with the Daily Telegraph she was conscious of the sensitivity of the issue, and the personal toll speaking out takes on those impacted. "We are not going at this like a bull at a gate," she assured. "We are being very careful and we are bringing everyone into the tent—police, lawyers, unions, managers and obviously women who have been affected, because we want to do this properly."
Need to talk?
Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line - 1800 Respect (1800 737 732)
Lifeline - 13 11 14
If you've experienced a sexual assault you can report it to Australian police by dialling 000, or learn more here .