Celebrity

'Home and Away' star Lisa Gormley shares her harrowing experience of sexual harassment at work

“He made me feel like I was worthless.”

In the wake of the recent (and ongoing) Hollywood scandal that has seen the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and One Tree Hill showrunner Mark Schwahn be accused of sexual misconduct in the industry, the conversation has opened so that women have found the courage to share their #MeToo experiences of sexual harassment, assault and abuse at the hands of people in positions of power.

This issue is by no means exclusive to Hollywood — locally, iconic TV gardening guru Don Burke found himself at the centre of multiple accusations of misconduct. And it happens in all industries, not just entertainment.

But for another Australian example of how prevalent this is, actor Lisa Gormley, best known for her role as Bianca on Home and Away, opened up to Cosmo about how she became a shell of her former self when she was sexually harassed and bullied by a co-star on another job.

Photo credit: Rachel Vasicek
Photo credit: Rachel Vasicek

Here’s what Lisa shared:

“People think I have a dream job and I agree with them — sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realise I get paid to do what I love. But sadly, it’s that same reasoning that also makes many women in the arts stay quiet in the face of sexual harassment. Fear is such a powerful motivator — fear of what speaking up could do to your career — and so you learn to just suck it up. As they say, ‘The show must go on.’

“Hearing the recent reports about the abuse of power in Hollywood horrified me, but did it surprise me? No, because I’ve lived it too. I consider myself a pretty strong person, but during a theatre stint, a man I worked with completely broke me. When he realised I didn’t want to sleep with him, that I wasn’t going to giggle at his jokes or flirt with him, I became his enemy. He took every opportunity to make me feel like less of a person. He bit my lip during a stage kiss and forcibly held me against him during rehearsal. I didn’t know where to turn; I couldn’t walk out on the show and leave the team in the lurch — most of all, I needed to be employed.

“Feeling helpless, I looked online to see what resources were available to me, but there was nothing; no guidelines at all. It’s not like a regular office environment where you can go to HR. Every day I had to pretend I liked this person, be intimate and vulnerable with him. I couldn’t sleep; I lost weight and even lost my voice. When the show wrapped up, I cried for hours. I wanted to write letters to every single director warning them about him, I wanted to tell the world, but I couldn’t. Women who’d previously worked with this person approached me after the show finished and revealed they’d struggled with him too. I wanted to scream, ‘Why the f*ck didn’t you warn me?’.

“Despite my experience, I feel like one of the lucky ones. There have only been two men that made me feel that way; the rest have been bliss. But there should’ve been zero. That’s why I’m choosing to speak up now — because not everyone can. It’s up to the rest of us to make noise on their behalf.”

This story originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Cosmopolitan, which is on sale now with Elle Ferguson on the cover.