‘My Beautiful Penis’: More Women Come Forward To Expose Barrister Charles Waterstreet

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Last week, New Matilda broke details of explosive allegations levelled against Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet by 21-year-old law student Tina Huang. Mr Waterstreet responded several days later, denying the allegations in a piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Provoked by Mr Waterstreet’s response, two more women have come forward to challenge his claims, and support Ms Huang. Nina Funnell and Chris Graham report.

On their first day of work, most paralegals will be given a tour, a swipe card, a desk and maybe even a safety briefing. On Genevieve Wilks’ first day of work, her new boss gave her a self-autographed book of nude photos, which included naked images of himself posing with an equally naked woman aged in her 20s.

Shop-Sparkke-Consent-300-x-250He told her it was a “first day of work present”.

Ms Wilks’ opening day ‘gift’ would set the tone of an extraordinary working relationship that she would endure for the next 10 months. Over the course of her employment, Ms Wilks would be repeatedly exposed to pornographic videos and imagery, routinely sexualised by her boss, she was even shown a sketch of his “flaccid penis”.

“It was a pencil drawing someone had done, and he showed it to me as his ‘beautiful penis’. I remember vividly the experience of him wanting to show me someone’s artistic appreciation of his penis, and how it was represented. Like he was being a generous benefactor in showing me….”

Welcome to the world of prominent Sydney criminal barrister Charles Waterstreet, one of the nation’s most famous lawyers whose chaotic personal and professional life inspired the popular ABC television drama, Rake.

Genevieve Wilks, aged 26, who served as a paralegal for Charles Waterstreet for 10 months.
Genevieve Wilks, aged 26, who served as a paralegal for Charles Waterstreet for 10 months.

Last week New Matilda revealed damning allegations made by Tina Huang, a 21-year-old law student, who worked for Mr Waterstreet for just three hours in August this year.

According to Ms Huang’s sworn statement, Mr Waterstreet showed her a masturbation video and multiple images of naked women, and described how he enjoyed women snorting cocaine from his body.

And that was just the job interview, which lasted one hour.

In the course of Ms Huang’s actual first day on the job, Mr Waterstreet revealed he was upset because he had been overlooked for an invitation to a recent “sex party”, had Ms Huang reply to personal emails about upcoming dates with women, and had her process late payments for sex toys.

Since Ms Huang’s story broke, New Matilda has been contacted by numerous women whose allegations mirror those made by Ms Huang. One of those was Ms Wilks, 26, who worked as a paralegal for Mr Waterstreet between September 2014 and June 2015.

“When I started working for him, part of it was just sussing out what [the work]involved [in]being his assistant, and what it meant interacting with him,” Ms Wilks said.

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“It became very clear from the first day that that meant being okay with him sexualising you, and every other woman, at all times, and him talking about those things any time he would see fit… sending inappropriate images to you, or getting you to send them to other people.

“One email he sent to me and two of the other assistants [was]a photo of a penis in a mankini. He just wants to shock people. That is what he would do.”

A screenshot of an email sent by Charles Waterstreet to female staff.
A screenshot of an email sent by Charles Waterstreet to female staff.

New Matilda has also obtained emails sent to Ms Wilks from Mr Waterstreet’s work address in which he writes “omg, we gotta find each other on tinder” and “Gen, good luck in exams, hope to see you from time to time, at least on Tinder”.

Other emails from Mr Waterstreet reference Viagra and pornography, and in one email dated April 11, 2015 he writes that he hopes to “get more chicks” into the office to make it “more liveable and user friendly”.

In further correspondence also obtained by New Matilda, Mr Waterstreet bemoans a “lack of intimacy” and writes that he is “not in any relationship except with Redtube”, a popular porn site.

Other allegations include:

  • On numerous occasions during her employment Mr Waterstreet showed Ms Wilks – and other staff – photographs of himself with naked or semi-naked escorts;
  • Mr Waterstreet would watch pornography on Redtube in the office in plain view of his young female employees;
  • Part of Ms Wilks’ duties involved regularly picking up Mr Waterstreet’s Viagra from a local pharmacist;
  • Ms Wilks was required to organise lingerie vouchers or payments to sex workers or women Mr Waterstreet met on ‘Seeking Arrangement’, a dating site where older men pursue relationships with younger women, in exchange for ongoing financial support;
  • Ms Wilks would routinely go weeks without being paid wages. When money would come into the business, Mr Waterstreet’s financial adviser told her he was instructed to prioritise the payment of “floor fees and sex” over wages.

Unpaid and ‘unattractive’

Like the fictionalised Cleaver Greene from the ABC series Rake, Charles Waterstreet is renowned for his poor financial management. Ms Wilks would quickly discover that meant she would often wait weeks, sometimes months, for full payment of her wages.

“He was so hand to mouth, as soon as any whiff of a cheque came in, it was ‘organise a date that night, pay the woman.’ That’s just what happened first. It wasn’t even a question,” she told New Matilda.

“It was really hurtful, so difficult. [I felt] frustrated, hurt, under-valued, but also you normalise it as well. So like, ‘He’s really lonely, he’s got no friends’, you would find some way of making sense of it, you would justify it.

New Matilda has obtained pay-sheets which show that when Ms Wilks resigned from her employment with Mr Waterstreet in June 2015, she was owed $3580 in unpaid wages dating back to March of that year.

Shop-Sparkke_Banner_740x270(Cider)

Ms Wilks also says that it was widely accepted in the office that she was less attractive than the other “Charlies Angels” – Mr Waterstreet’s description for the young women who worked for him.

“[When I applied for the job] he actually wanted someone else who he thought was more attractive. It became a running joke that I’m not very good looking, but I’m very good at the job.

“It was first communicated to me… that he wanted the other girl because he flirted with her more, and the flirting was better. But [another staff member]thought I would be far more competent at the job and really wanted to work with me. And so I was warned on my first day just to be on my guard, and ‘try and make sure that he likes you because he’s not happy about the decision, but he’ll go along with it if it works out okay’”.

In an email to Ms Wilks, Mr Waterstreet writes “this sounds corny but I adore you, your (sic) plain but sincere.”

The email chain is signed off “The Boss of Bosses x”.

CW-email-tinder

 

Waterstreet: The Boss Of Bosses

A second woman, Anita* aged in her 20s, has also come forward to New Matilda, outlining in a lengthy written statement her experience at a job interview with Mr Waterstreet earlier this year.

I had done my due diligence on Charles Waterstreet, believing I would be grilled on his legal career and had read of his charismatic, eccentric personality. I was by no means naïve to the outrageous comments he had made in the media, and through online platforms. I had read the articles claiming he only hired attractive women – his ‘Charlie’s Angels’ – and that he wrote controversial, off-colour articles for various news outlets. I was prepared to meet someone who was eccentric and a ‘character’.

But I was not prepared for the inappropriate behaviour that continued for the better part of 90 minutes.

Early into the interview Mr Waterstreet picked up a sex-toy which was sitting in clear view on a shelf behind him…. It was a two pronged double-penetration black vibrating device. Thank God he didn’t turn it on.

He asked me if I knew what it was. I said I did…. He laughed out loud, he [appeared to]love the shock factor.

He repeatedly told me he “loves women” and words to the effect that he was in the initial stages of producing ethical pornography, and had recently become obsessed with this concept.

He proceeded to bring up the website on his desktop [and bring up]pornographic images and asked if I could see them. I didn’t want to look at them. [He also] spoke about how female orgasms were volcanic, far more powerful than men’s.

According to Anita, Mr Waterstreet then “rummaged through his briefcase and pulled out Viagra medication” before feigning surprise.

This was my first interview for a legal position and I was anxious to talk about my passion for criminal law, and why he should hire me. We never had that conversation, as much as I tried.

He never explained what he was looking for in a candidate, the job description, the days I would be working, nothing. It is now obvious to me, this was never a job interview: it was an opportunity for him to get off, speaking obscenities to a young woman, and – desperate for a job in an area she was passionate about – she had to sit back and take it.

When Anita left, Mr Waterstreet gave her a signed copy of his book Precious Bodily Fluids, and offered her the job.

Anita never returned.

 

The Common Threads

Tina Huang, Genevieve Wilks and ‘Anita’ have never met or spoken to one another, yet their stories share some striking similarities.

In the course of their job interviews or first shifts, all three women were shown nude imagery and/or pornographic videos by Mr Waterstreet; all were given an autographed book as a ‘welcome gift’; and all three walked out of his office confused about whether they were being ‘tested’.

Both Ms Huang and Anita immediately documented their confusion by messaging close friends.

Ironically, all three women are now also united against Mr Waterstreet as a direct result of his response to Ms Huang’s allegations.

In a lengthy response published on Friday in the Sydney Morning Herald – a media outlet which employed Mr Waterstreet as a columnist for several years – Mr Waterstreet either denied outright the allegations levelled against him by Ms Huang, or described his actions as related to his work, a misunderstanding or a joke.

He claimed that young women were not required to provide photos prior to interview, and that he was clearly joking when he told the Daily Telegraph in 2014: “Many barristers insist on a CV. I just insist on photos.”

Ms Wilks must have missed the joke: “I had to provide one when I applied for the job.”

Ms Wilks has also provided New Matilda with an email from Mr Waterstreet’s office where she was specifically asked to provide her photo, prior to being interviewed.

Ms Wilks said Mr Waterstreet’s response in the Herald helped motivate her to come forward.

Shop-Sparkke-Consent-300-x-250“After reading the article – how he played with the truth to smear Tina and challenge her credibility – it made me angry,” Ms Wilks said.

“It galvanised my resolve to do anything I could to stop at least one instance of a man using his position and power in society to avoid accountability and gaslight women.”

For her part, Anita said it was also Mr Waterstreet’s comments to media, and his response in the SMH which drove her to speak out.

“When he said he was being victimised, that made me irate,” Anita said. “He has all the power, he has influence, and access to media platforms, and yet he calls himself the victim? It’s ridiculous.

“Where is [someone like Ms Huang]meant to go? You can’t go to your uni since they are the ones advertising his vacant positions and funnelling you into it. You can’t go to the mainstream media because he’s writing a column for them and they are giving him oxygen to bully his victim.”

Tina Huang, a 21-year-old law student who led the call out of Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet.
Tina Huang, a 21-year-old law student who led the call out of Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet.

Ms Huang says that she feels “proud and grateful” that other women are now speaking out against sexual harassment.

“The truth is, sexual harassment is never something that a man does once; it is not a single story” she said.

“It is a pattern of behaviour that is perpetuated by social narratives about gender and structural forces [which]in turn convince victims they either deserved what happened to them, or even worse, that it never happened in the first place and that they are just being ‘sensitive’.

“These women… are an important reminder that harassment of women anywhere, leads to the acceptance of harassment everywhere.”

 

A Beginning And End

In hindsight, Genevieve Wilks looks back on her time with Charles Waterstreet with a mixture of pity, revulsion and confused affection, which she likens to “Stockholm Syndrome”, and questions why she accepted the job in the first place.

“I remember feeling very overwhelmed by the experience, as any job interview is overwhelming, but feeling very uncomfortable with the way he interacted with me or what he talked about.

“Looking back, at first I stayed because as a law student with no other legal experience, this was an opportunity I had to take. Over time however, it changed. I began to develop a feeling of entrapment financially and emotionally. He would deploy his famous wit and [use it]to both charm and bully.

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“Giving notice was considered abandonment and betrayal in his eyes. It took me many months before I could bring myself to step away – long after my own mental health and financial wellbeing had been severely compromised.”

Shop-Sparkke-Consent-300-x-250Ms Wilks concedes that Mr Waterstreet’s perspective is likely very different.

“I don’t think he sees it as sexual harassment. And that’s also why it’s hard to know how to classify all the behaviour, because it was all just part of how he interacted with everyone, or with me.

“In the workplace it was integral to who he was and how he interacted with people, and it was part of the suite of ways he maintained his control and his place in the room.”

Ms Wilks says that she still has conflicted feelings about her time at Forbes Chambers, and her relationship with Mr Waterstreet.

“If this does bring him down, part of me will feel a little bit guilty about what this will mean for him.

“He burnt all his bridges with anyone meaningful in his life, and he had to pay for company.

“It’s also part of the reason why I put up with his creepy hugs, or made excuses for why it was okay that he paid sex workers before me.

“Because at the end of the day, he’s just a really sad, lonely man.”

At the time of press, Mr Waterstreet had not responded to a series of questions from New Matilda. Mr Waterstreet did, however, tweet the following message late last night, which was discovered shortly after press.

*Anita is a pseudonym.

• If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault or harassment support is available by calling 1800 424 017 and speaking to a qualified trauma counsellor at the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.

DO YOU HAVE INFORMATION TO SHARE? You can contact the authors of this article by email by clicking here for Nina Funnell, or here for Chris Graham. You can phone Nina on 0438 479 831 or Chris on 0407 555 328. Nina tweets here and Chris Facebooks here, and tweets here.

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Nina Funnell & Chris Graham

NINA FUNNELL is a freelance journalist, author and advocate against gender based violence. Nina has been awarded a Walkley Our Watch award, the United Nations Australia Media Award and an Edna Ryan Media Award for her sustained reporting on sexual assault and institutional cover up. CHRIS GRAHAM is a Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist, and the editor and owner of New Matilda.

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