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New tool for reporting lawyer sexual harassment

The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C) has today launched an online tool for lawyers in Victoria to anonymously report instances of sexual harassment.

The tool, accessible via the VLSB+C website, enables both targets and witnesses of sexual harassment to report what happened, where, when and to whom. Reporters can provide as much or as little detail as they feel comfortable.

Users can choose to identify themselves or remain anonymous throughout the entire reporting process and have control over how their report progresses, including if they want to make a formal complaint.

Anyone, including legal support staff and clients of lawyers, can use the portal to report their experiences of harassment by a lawyer or within a legal workplace. All submissions are reviewed by VLSB+C’s specially trained Sexual Harassment Complaints Team, and details of available support services are provided within the reporting tool.

VLSB+C’s report into Sexual Harassment in Victoria’s legal profession released last year revealed that more than a third of lawyers, rising to 61% of female lawyers, were sexually harassed while working in the sector, while 81% of people surveyed said they did not report their most recent incident of sexual harassment.

Victorian Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner, Fiona McLeay says the online reporting tool was developed to encourage more people to come forward to report sexual harassment, by reducing some of the barriers to reporting.

“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 this 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.

“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 VLSB+C also hoped to gain valuable information from the online tool to monitor areas of concern, such as law practices, and where possible, take regulatory action.

In the past year, VLSB+C has developed and begun implementing a sexual harassment regulatory strategy to build knowledge, skills and leadership on this issue in the legal sector.  Work is ongoing with legal sector stakeholders to build knowledge about responding to sexual harassment and to support cultural change in legal workplaces.

VLSB+C is the independent statutory authority responsible for regulation of the legal profession in Victoria.

Access the tool via our dedicated sexual harassment complaints section.

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