Friday 27 April 2018

'I was sexually harassed', says RTÉ weather presenter Joanna Donnelly

COMPLAINT: Met Eireann’s Joanna Donnelly. Dress from Cari’s Closet, Malahide. Make-up by Red Velvet. Photo: Gerry Mooney
COMPLAINT: Met Eireann’s Joanna Donnelly. Dress from Cari’s Closet, Malahide. Make-up by Red Velvet. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Meteorologist Joanna Donnelly has opened up about her experience of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Ms Donnelly said she was in her 20s when she began to receive persistent unwelcome advances from a man long before she joined Met Eireann.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, the RTÉ weather presenter recalled how it was initially brushed off.

"When I was younger I remember complaining to somebody about the fact that I had been harassed sexually in the working place," she said.

"The problem was with this one particular person who just wouldn't take no for an answer. They were making things really uncomfortable, constantly asking me out. It wasn't physically dangerous but it was harassment. He would ask me out and I would say 'no' and then he would ask me out again and I would say 'No, I'm not interested' and he would say 'well you're leading me on' and that I had smiled at him in a particular way."

It was only when Ms Donnelly was persistent in reporting the behaviour that the matter was finally dealt with.

"It took persistence on my part," she explains.

"I wasn't going to stop complaining about it until something happened."

Referring to the number of women who have spoken out in recent weeks following the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the 'Me Too' movement on social media, which has been a rallying call to millions of women to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, Ms Donnelly said people should never be ashamed to speak the truth about their experiences.

"I am 47 and this happened in my 20s so I hope we can say that, in today's society, there is more protection for women.

"Women must know if something like this happens to them, then they themselves have done nothing wrong. Don't be afraid to speak out when people say 'oh, don't make waves' or 'don't jeopardise your future carer by making somebody else uncomfortable'.

"If someone is behaving in an inappropriate manner you need to be protected and you are not doing anything wrong by complaining about it. I mean, even now, when I am talking to you, I am thinking about the people who are going to say to me 'oh, you shouldn't have said that'. I can already hear my colleague in my ear saying 'you shouldn't have said that'. But why not? I didn't do anything wrong. Why should I not say it?"

The meteorologist also drew on her experience in recent days when she went online to publish hate mail she had received.

The handwritten letter, from an anonymous individual, read: "Get off the stage Donnelly. You work for Met Eireann. You're a weather forecaster. That's all. No big deal. Nobody is remotely interested in you or your lifestyle. You're not even a little bit attractive.

"You're obviously trying to break into the entertainment/celebrity side of it like some of your colleagues. Stick with your cushy job in Glasnevin."

Joanna reacted with humour by captioning a photo of the letter with "In fairness I have lovely legs. Just can't see them on TV. My mother would be furious and demand I have this fingerprinted."

Ms Donnelly said when she posted the letter someone questioned why she would publish it.

"I suppose that is a good question 'why publish it?', I'll tell you why publish it because I didn't do anything wrong and that's the case with women generally in society. We don't do anything wrong and we get abuse and then we are told 'well can you not keep it to yourself?' No. Why should I when it's wrong?

"I always say to people that when I write a book some day it will be called 'The names have been changed to protect the guilty' because the innocent don't need protecting. And women are abused regularly. Women in the public eye or even just walking down the street.

"The 'Me Too' campaign, which is going viral on social media at the moment, will show you that nearly every woman at some time or other has either been harassed or abused and a lot of the time it's based on how they look."

The 'Me Too' movement began on social media after a call to action by the actor Alyssa Milano.

One of Harvey Weinstein's most vocal critics, she wrote: "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."

The phrase has been posted millions of times, often accompanied by stories of encounters that range from creepy to humiliating and horrific.

Sunday Independent

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