Social Issues

Australian senator accused of sexual abuse in parliament

Sydney, Australia, June 16 (EFE).- Two women accused Australian senator David Van of sexual abuse in the parliament in Canberra, while his party leader urged him Friday to present his resignation.

These new alleged sexual crimes in parliament, where a rape was reported in an office in 2021, come after a similar accusation filed this week by an independent senator against “powerful men.”

“In November 2020, Senator Van inappropriately touched me at an informal social gathering in a parliamentary office,” former Senator Amanda Stoker said in a statement. “He did so by squeezing my bottom twice. By its nature and by its repetition, it was not accidental. That action was not appropriate. It was unprofessional and uninvited.”

Stoker, who held a seat in the Senate between 2018 and 2022 representing the Liberal Party – the same as Van – added that a day after the incident she complained directly to Van, who apologized and said that she would not do it again.

After this accusation within the Liberal Party, leader Peter Dutton said during an interview with the 2GB radio station that he received a second “similar” complaint against Van, without providing further details or revealing the identity of the alleged victim.

Dutton, who also heads the opposition coalition in the Legislature, urged Van on Friday to present his resignation “as soon as possible,” a day after removing him from the meetings of the political formation.

“I will not tolerate sexual harassment against women,” Dutton said, adding that his decisions are not based on the possible veracity of the allegations against Van.

This new scandal arose Wednesday, when independent senator Lidia Thorpe accused Van of harassing and sexually assaulting, without providing further details.

Thorpe, shortly thereafter, had to drop the public charge for breaching parliamentary procedures on complaints procedures, though on Thursday she reported incidents of sexual harassment carried out in Parliament in Canberra by unidentified “powerful men.”

Van flatly denied the accusation made by Thorpe on Thursday, adding that she “does not remember” the incident with Stoke.

Van said he had not ruled on the third accusation, adding that he feels “destroyed” by the allegations that affect his “good reputation.” He said he would “cooperate” with any process to investigate him.

It is not the first time that alleged sexual abuse crimes perpetrated in the Australian parliament have been reported.

In 2021, former Liberal Party employee Brittany Higgins reported having been raped in 2019 by a colleague in one of the ministerial offices.

Although the complaint was finally filed at the end of last year, due to the impact of the legal process on Higgins’ mental health, the Australian government apologized to her in February 2022 before parliament for not having ensured her safety.

The official apologies were part of the response to 28 recommendations issued in November 2021 by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who led an inquiry into work culture in Parliament. EFE


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