The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner has launched an online tool for lawyers to anonymously report instances of sexual harassment.
Victims and witnesses of sexual harassment in the Victorian legal profession can now share the details of the misconduct through a new online tool and have their reports reviewed by a specially trained sexual harassment complaints team.
The tool, accessible via the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C) website, will allow the user to identify themselves or remain anonymous throughout the entire process. They will also have control over how the report progresses, including deciding whether they want to make a formal complaint.
The new reporting platform was inspired by VLSB+C’s 2020 report into sexual harassment in the profession, which found more than a third of lawyers – rising to 61 per cent of female lawyers – were sexually harassed while working. Further, 81 per cent said they did not report their most recent incident of sexual harassment.
CEO Fiona McLeay said the online reporting tool was developed to encourage more people to come forward by removing some of the barriers, including fear of losing work or reputation and a lack of confidence in existing reporting procedures.
“Since we released our report, more individuals have come forward to report, but not in the numbers reflected in our survey of the profession,” Ms McLeay said.
“We hope this tool will help address the serious problem in our profession by providing a platform through which people can tell us – anonymously – as much or as little as they like about their experience of being sexually harassed.”
VLSB+C hopes to also gain valuable information from the online tool to monitor areas of concern, such as law practices and, where possible, take regulatory action.
“This is behaviour we take very seriously, and can investigate. We strongly encourage anyone who experiences sexual harassment by a lawyer to take detailed notes about what occurred, where, when, and who else was present and let us know about it,” Ms McLeay said.
The tool can be accessed through the VLSB+C website.