Law students are marching through Wellington today, saying they deserve a future free from sexual harassment in the workplace.
The students will march through the centre of Wellington about midday, from the Victoria University of Wellington law school to Midland Park.
The “March on Midland” is a direct response to the revelations about the treatment of interns and graduates at Russell McVeagh.
The students hope the public pressure will achieve three things: Russell McVeagh being suspended from any further public work until their external review is complete; all law firms making changes, including a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment; and increasing support from the legal profession, university, politicians, and community to stand up for safety in the workplace.
VUWSA welfare vice president and fifth-year law student Bethany Paterson said everyone banding together for the march was important, because it was hard to take a stand.
“We have to bear in mind that some students are actually really afraid to come to this march because we’re talking about really powerful law firms and people are concerned about their careers.
“We’re hoping that the numbers will mean people are braver together.
“We don’t think we’re asking for too much, what we’re asking for is for students and graduates to feel safe in the workplace.
“We’d hope that’s something employers support.”
She said the students deserved to be treated with dignity and respect.
“We want senior lawyers to mentor and teach us, rather than be reduced to objects to stare at and grope.
“There is no amount of rewording, rephrasing, or redrafting that can justify sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.”
“We are trusting you with our careers and ambitions. Please take care of them, and us.”
VUW Law Students Society vice president administration and equity Indiana Shewen said the march was about solidarity.
“We recognise that Māori, other ethnic minorities, gender and sexual minorities and people with disabilities are all impacted differently.
“Often young women are the victims, but this is not always the case – anyone can be a victim. Every story is important and we stand for all of them.
“It is clear that sexual assault and harassment are pervasive problems within the legal profession, and not limited to one firm.
“We are calling for an overhaul of this inadequate culture. We do not accept sexual violence in any form.”
Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said the march was the first step to showing the scale of the problem, so that it could be fixed.
“I think the Me Too movement, what we’ve seen happening in law firms, and throughout our community, shows that sexual violence is prevalent.
“It has really unearthed the scale of the problem which means we now need to take active steps to end sexual violence in all forms.
“Every instance of sexual violence is preventable.”
Supporters are being asked to gather on Bunny St from 11.45am today, with the march beginning 12.30pm, followed by speeches from students and politicians in Midland Park from 1pm.