A New Zealand rugby team is being accused of sexual assault and victim blaming after two exotic dancers in New Zealand came forward the team groped them at an end-of-season party.
In response to the allegations, Gallagher, the Chiefs’ lead sponsor, stood behind the players, asking “what are we supposed to do.”
“If a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her,” Margaret Comer, Gallagher’s corporate service executive, told Fairfax media earlier this week.
“It’s not nice and perhaps the stripper shouldn’t have been hired, but I’m reluctant to say that the boys were out of line.”
The women, known professionally as “Scarlette” and “Laura,” say they danced at for the Chiefs at two separate parties.
Scarlette first told Radio New Zealand Thursday she was groped, called names, and had gravel thrown at her at this year’s end-of-season party.
She also said that while she allowed one man to lick her for a price, other men started licking her without her consent.
Laura told MediaWorks that 10 different players groped her after she told them not to at last year’s Mad Monday party. She was also called derogatory names.
“They were just full on. I was trying to dance and they are all surrounding me and I asked them several times to back off – I need space,” she said. “They ended up spitting alcohol, beer all over me.”
Many are calling out the executive for victim blaming. The NZ National Council of Women said the remarks were just as disturbing as the inappropriate acts themselves.
“What a shameful way to respond to these very serious allegations,” the organization said in a statement on their website. “Taking your clothes off is not a license to touch and dismissing the allegations because of the woman’s profession is a disgrace.”
Comer has since apologized for the remarks calling them a “poor choice of words” in a statement released Friday.
New Zealand Police are investigating the incident. The New Zealand Rugby Union is also conducting its own investigation in association with the Waikato Team and Players Association.