An Australian woman says she still suffers panic attacks after being walked in on by a male staff member in the changerooms at a local sporting complex earlier this year.
Now Perth woman Rebecca Kirkman is asking the City of Melville to make a simple change — ban male staff members from female changerooms altogether, instead of the current policy that requires them to "loudly announce their intention to enter".
"My main goal is to make sure that it's safe for other women to use the change rooms — I don't want what happened to me to happen to them," said the 45-year-old, who has launched a petition on Change.org.
Kirkman had gone to use the showers at the LeisureFit Melville Building and A.H. Bracks Library on February 12 when a male staff member told her they were unavailable as a plumber was fixing them, news.com.au reports.
Fifteen minutes later she was told they were available so she went in and showered. As she was drying herself, the same employee entered the room with a plumber. Ms Kirkman "screamed" and was left shaken.
She has not ruled out taking legal action against over the incident, which she says left her with anxiety whenever she sees a man who resembles the person who walked in on her.
Kirkman says she was "hoping they would offer me some compensation to pay for counselling". "I was hoping the council would do the right thing so that legal action would be avoidable," she said.
"It hurts that they won't even so much as apologise."
The City of Melville confirmed the incident occurred and said it had unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a meeting with Kirkman.
"A male staff member reported an incident immediately after it had occurred and a female team leader spoke immediately with the customer in person to check on her wellbeing and to apologise on behalf of the male staff member," City of Melville chief executive Marten Tieleman said.
"The female customer did not wish to lodge a complaint at the time. Later that day, the customer made a social media post highlighting the incident, and the City made several attempts to immediately contact her to discuss and address her concerns. A staff member did finally make contact with her via phone, however the customer specifically said 'I do not know who this is' and hung up."
Tieleman said since that time Kirkman had "contacted the City by email and messenger again and even met with former Mayor Russell Aubrey, however when the City has attempted to arrange a possible meeting the customer is not available to respond".
The City of Melville said it investigated the incident internally. It claims Kirkman "did not make (her) presence known to staff when they called out prior to entering the area" and that the staff member was "alarmed to then find a customer was using the facility".
"Protocol requires that any male employee or contractor who requires access to female change rooms must always loudly announce their intention to enter the facilities," Tieleman said.
"Entry by a male staff person only occurs for maintenance or emergency reasons and in the company of other staff or contractors. This protocol has been reiterated with staff."
He added, "While the customer has not lodged a formal complaint with the City, we would greatly welcome the opportunity to meet with her as this is clearly causing her ongoing concern. We encourage her to contact the City again to arrange a meeting time."