Safety forum

A FORUM organised by the Fremantle Network this Monday will tackle the thorny issue of keeping women safe from the sex pests infesting Perth pubs, clubs and festivals (“Grubs in our pubs,” Herald, December 2, 2017).

It follows a Safer WA survey that found disturbingly high numbers of women were being harassed while out socialising, and a nasty social media spat sparked by a Freo councillor’s fashion commentary following the recent Falls Festival.

Rachel Pemberton (who was the Chook’s first fashion columnist) had noted the revealing outfits and “fuck me boots” worn by many festival-goers. This was seized on by some who claimed using the phrase was promoting dangerous behaviour amongst young woman, particularly following sexual assault allegations during the festival’s Tasmanian leg.

There were calls for her resignation or sacking, but Cr Pemberton received support from her colleagues and says much of the outrage was political opportunism.

“If you’re going to do that, then game on, let’s do it, but just remember; negative campaigning doesn’t work,” she said.

Deputy mayor Ingrid Waltham says she fumed for a day after the campaign against Cr Pemberton, saying it smacked of blaming women for being sexually assaulted rather than the perpetrators, while Cr Doug Thompson described the debate as “everything wrong with social media”.

• Falls Festival revellers in the revealing outfits that caught councillor Rachel Pemberton’s eye. Photo by Rachel Pemberton

Cr Pemberton says as a way of turning a negative into a positive, she decided to tackle what she says is a serious problem through a Fremantle Network forum.

She revealed her first experience of sexual assault when she was aged just 12 or 13.

“I was in the Carillon Arcade lift and a teen boy who must have thought I looked older grabbed my bum,” Cr Pemberton said.

“I was terrified,” she said, adding it’s not the only unwanted attention she’s received through the years.

Speakers at the event include Rebecca Sneddon and Will MacDonald from Safer Venues WA, Angela Hartwig from the Women’s Council of WA (who’d criticised Cr Pemberton’s comments) and Kate Davis, who’s previously worked at the WA Women’s Law Centre.

Ms Sneddon says they’ve been working with pubs, clubs and festivals to try and get them to adopt practices and policies that will help clamp down on the behaviour.

She praised Mojo’s in North Fremantle which has signed up to the Safer WA campaign and has anti-harassment signage. Sunset Events also got big kudos for dropping eastern states musician Kirin J Callinan from its 2018 Laneway festival line-up after he recently exposed himself at the Arias.

The keep woman safe event is at the National Hotel on Monday at 6pm.

by STEVE GRANT

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