After five years and three preliminary trials a former naval officer has finally received an apology from the New Zealand Defence Force for the sexual harassment she endured while with the organisation.
Napier woman Hayley Browne (nee Young) said that to finally get an apology after all this time hasn't really sunk in yet but was exactly what she wanted to hear.
The apology in full read:
1. The Defence Force apologises for using your image on the promotional poster and brochure. We are sorry for the retraumatising effect this had on you.
2. We are sorry for the manner in which your complaint was handled by Defence Force and it causing you to be retraumatised.
Apology for the working conditions/situation she was under:
1. We are sorry for the conditions you served under in the RNZN, including the sexual harassment you experienced in the RNZN in New Zealand and on New Zealand ships.
2. We are sorry that the Defence Force system failed to empower you to raise the issues you faced to command.
3. We are sorry that the restricted disclosure system we now have in place was not available to you at the time you would have needed it.
4. We also thank you for your courage in submitting My Story and raising the issues you faced while serving in the RNZN.
Browne spent the past five years trying to have a legal case brought against both the New Zealand and British governments - here in New Zealand.
She wanted to argue the NZ and British defence forces failed to keep her safe.
Browne said she was physically assaulted twice, once when a British officer raped her in 2009, and once when a male officer placed his hand on her crotch while she was climbing a ladder.
She was serving with the New Zealand Navy when she was offered further training through a posting with the UK's Royal Navy where both incidents happened.
Browne decided not to take legal action against the man who allegedly raped her and instead decided to challenge the culture that enabled it.
"I hope this has helped give some people insight into what the environment is really like for women in a male-dominated industry and how to change it," Browne said.
As part of the apology and settlement, she has been briefed on how the Navy has changed its culture back in February.
She will also meet top naval brass to discuss her experience and provide feedback and advice on how to improve the culture.
"It's going to take a while to process because it has been coming for five years but the apology was what I was looking for," she said.
"All the apology was about was just being able to be treated with a bit of human respect and it finally got there five years in."
She is now turning her attention to running for the Napier City Council where she hopes she can put her work and experience into making a difference to her home town.
Browne said she felt what she had done over the last five years to fight her case has made somewhat of a change in the Navy for all women.
"From what I have seen and been told it seems like the navy is a much better environment for women to work since I left."