Underbelly star accused of forcibly kissing actress
A WELL-KNOWN Australian TV star has been accused of sexual discrimination after he allegedly forcibly kissed a female actor in a "non-consensual and unscripted" encounter during filming of a television show.
Rebecca Wilson alleges actor Damian Walshe-Howling made unwelcome sexual advances toward her, kissing her and forcing his tongue into her mouth, while they were filming Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms in 2011.
Ms Wilson, who was an extra playing a Bandido party girl, alleges Mr Walshe-Howling held her by the back of her head, so she was unable to free herself, her court claim says.
The kiss, during filming in December, 2011, was "non-consensual and unscripted'', her Federal Circuit Court claim, filed by Shine Lawyers, alleges.
Mr Walshe-Howling is well known for his award-winning role as Andrew "Benji'' Veniamin in Underbelly and has also had roles on Blue Heelers and Neighbours.
A lawyer for Mr Walshe-Howling declined to comment when contacted by The Courier-Mail.
Ms Wilson alleges Mr Walshe-Howling later approached her, as if he was going to kiss her again, grabbing her arms with both of his hands. When she indicated she did not want him to kiss her, he allegedly said words to the effect of "Just pretend'' and "Just do it''.
He then allegedly rubbed his face in Ms Wilson's hair when she turned her head away from him, her court claim says.
It is alleged Mr Walshe-Howling sexually harassed her by unwelcome sexual advances and other conduct of a sexual nature and discriminated against her, on grounds of her sex.
Ms Wilson allegedly suffered intrusive thoughts, sleeping problems, anxiety, stress, depression, flashbacks, social withdrawal and isolation and she required ongoing medical treatment.
She is claiming general damages for hurt, humiliation and distress, aggravated damages and compensation for economic losses, because of an inability to work since 2012, and medical expenses.
Her claim, against Mr Walshe-Howling and television production company Screentime Pty Ltd, seeks a declaration they engaged in unlawful discrimination.
Screentime Pty Ltd was contacted, but did not respond by time of publication.
"Before I appeared on the show, I loved acting and was so excited about the possibility of a career in the entertainment industry,'' Ms Wilson said.
"I was doing a lot of TV work as an extra and had been auditioning for other roles when everything changed.
"At every step of the way, others have tried to minimise my pain and suffering, insisting it was no big deal and I should just move on. But I refuse to let this go because it has taken a huge toll on me personally and I will never feel safe working in television again.
"I used to be such a relaxed and outgoing person, but now I'm anxious, irritable, and struggle to socialise with men."
Will Barsby, of Shine Lawyers, said Ms Wilson had become increasingly withdrawn and anxious in the years since the alleged incident and was now looking for closure.
"It wasn't until the #Me Too movement gathered momentum that she felt empowered to say something,'' Mr Barsby said.