seeds of hope
It’s a gut-wrenching feeling; knowing that you are helpless.
Knowing that the very institutions and systems established to protect you don’t take you seriously. The institutions aren’t remedying their failings, so we rely on ourselves to step up and step out.
But what can one person do? How can you right these wrongs?
This universal feeling has been nursing frustration and anger in all of us. Hopelessness has transpired into action; to stand up, to fight, to make our voices heard, to break barriers and enact change. To rebuild the system so our stories are heard, and actions are taken.
The worldwide #metoo movement is the personification of this frustration. The movement has started conversations, encouraging people to share their stories and to come together as a community of survivors. A universal display of support in inspiring numbers with appalling stories. “Empowering through empathy” ensuring those whose nightmares have become a reality know they are not alone.
Zoë Lawton’s #metoo blog, compiling anonymous submissions of survivors’ experiences, embodies this movement, creating a safe place independent from societal and systematic failures. 200+ brave survivors have already shared their stories, educating the masses on the horrendous, seemingly unbreakable culture in the law profession. As a single person it may feel fruitless to try make changes, but as an inspiration to us all, Zoë has not let that stop her.
The student voice has never been louder, with summer clerks demanding they are not your “summer menu”. The pent-up frustration and flat refusal to let this practice continue was shouted loud and clear from the sea of determined and fed up black Victoria students marching down Lambton Quay to Midland Park.
The empowering speeches from Employment Lawyer Steph Dyhrberg, Victoria Law Lecturer Yvette Tinsley and Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons highlighted these prominent role models’ unwavering support and the height of the injustice ingrained in our society. The message was loud and clear, this behaviour would no longer be tolerated. This enormous show of support for the cause has forced firms to start asking questions about their policies. The unwavering stance from students has had an overwhelming impact on firm culture and helped open discussion forums.
There has been a huge amount of support and feedback with the New Zealand Law Society, MP’s and government departments keen to engage with this force of reckoning. The March was campaigning for three outcomes: suspending Russell McVeagh’s public work until their external review is completed and holding them to the ideal ethical standard of firms advising government; a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence and student ‘to-do list’ adopted in all law firms; and support from legal profession and wider community in this fight.
In response, the Law Society has conceded that the process of dealing with Russel McVeagh complaints should have been handled better and have set up several initiatives in response including a hotline and have committed to work closely with students in looking at changes profession wide. Next steps include driving changes in firms’ policies and in the execution of policies and HR being held accountable.
While these initiatives have already had resounding impact, the root of the problem is much deeper. It requires across the board support and relentless determination. These grassroots movements fuelled by passionate people remind us that we are not fighting this fight alone. By making small changes, we can work together to support victims, prevent injustice and remedy the culture.
Wear black on Thursday’s to show your support for sexual violence victims
Declare your support on White Ribbon Day (25th November)
Men take the #metoo pledge declaring that sexual harassment is an issue in our legal profession and that it needs to be fixed.
Take part in VUW Feminist Society’s events and initiatives
Get involved in the Not Above the Law campaign, they are looking for volunteers for four teams:
- Campaign – assisting with events and initiatives
- Government – researching and developing ethical standards for choosing the firms that advise our government
- Law Firm Rep – representing the campaign with respective HR teams as a law clerk
- Letter Writing – organising letter writing from students to law firms about taking sexual assault seriously
- Sign up here