How about we stop using cutesy names to describe the abuse of women: toxic culture, slut shaming, sexting, "boys' club", to name but a few?
It's barely been a minute since the Set the Standard report landed - the ink has yet to dry on the 28 recommendations tabled to parliamentary leaders on Tuesday - but by that afternoon slurs of "boofhead" and dog barking in the chambers made it very clear to myself and other Canberra Survivors that this report (like Respect@Work) will likely gather dust and end up as a footnote of history. It will fall to the too many survivors to advocate for its introduction into Commonwealth workplaces.
The 28 recommendations - as well as the content of the report, by his own admission - were not surprising to the Prime Minister.
And yet, to our deep surprise (sarcastic font on) the PM had no strategy ready, made no commitment, and displayed no urgency to immediately act for the safety of those in the halls of power and beyond.
Colour me shocked.
Hundreds of women - and some men - bravely told their trauma-fuelled stories to the sympathetic ears of the dedicated Human Rights Commission members through the course of the review. If you've had a traumatic experience, you'd empathise with the difficulty of this. If you haven't, look to our Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, for guidance: "Stop asking us to re-tell our trauma ..."
The report shines a light on the behaviour, harassment and deeply entrenched systemic abuse of female MPs and Commonwealth employees - behaviour which is usually, though not exclusively, perpetrated by men. Men who benefit from it. Women who benefit from playing along and staying silent. The same perpetrators responsible for such poor conduct - either directly or as bystanders - are charged with legislating to change their own behaviour. An action they have been shown to resist since the Parliament began.
As I gave my evidence to the commissioner, and in subsequent meetings, this was always at the forefront of my mind. And I verbalised it: "I am telling you this, but to what end?" So many of the examples of abuse contained in the report were perpetrated by the very people charged with the responsibility to achieve change.
Over and over again, we hear the words "toxic culture of Parliament" ... but what if we shift our language to reflect what is actually happening? Describing sexual harassment, abuse and assault in cutesy terms only minimises the true horrors of the behaviour of these monsters.
I made the mistake of calling what was done to me in 2018, at the hands of the Labor Party, "slut shaming". It wasn't that. There is no such thing. It was, and is, sexual harassment. I didn't have the words, or didn't really understand, what was being done to me by people I trusted. People I served and was loyal to. As a federal member of parliament, I was not covered under the Sex Discrimination Act to report such behaviour, either. This changed earlier this year, when the act was amended to include members of parliament and judges. The change was not retrospective.
As we go about setting the standard, we need to use language correctly and label bad behaviour exactly what it is. Not just for the women it happens to, but for the young girls who, statistically, we know will also be victims of this.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.