The big problems with #MeToo
There is a danger that comes with airing allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the public domain, such has become increasingly common in the #MeToo movement.
That's the view of Gillian Triggs, former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, who said those kinds of matters should almost always be dealt with in the safety of a confidential setting.
"One of my concerns as a lawyer is far too many of the men have no ability to defend themselves, they're simply resigning and using the tool of defamation to come back against the woman concerned," Ms Triggs said.
"For those men, if they feel they've been unjustly accused, they have no other vehicle because they've lost … the reputation with their colleagues and lost their job very often, and they have no other option."
Ms Guthrie has alleged that former Chairman Justin Milne inappropriately touched her after a dinner in late 2017. Mr Milne strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Matters needed to be examined "from both perspectives", which made trying to "solve this problem in the public arena" highly problematic, she said.
"We really need safe confidential and private ways in which to resolve matters long before we go anywhere near the courts, by which time the matter is way out in the public arena."
Ms Triggs is currently chairing a committee organised by a United Nations body exploring the issue of sexual harassment, she said.
Communications consultant Pamela Palme McGuinness said examples in the United States where men were found to have been falsely accused of rape of sexual assault highlighted the need for caution.
The speed with which the #MeToo movement had taken hold, encouraging victims to publicly air accusations, meant only one side of the issue was being examined, she said.
"We can't have this discussion about women ignoring what happens to men when allegations are raised that are false," Ms Palme McGuinness said.
"That is not in any way, in any circumstance, to imply that a woman is not telling the truth, but there have been cases, most notably in the States recently with some football players who had their careers ruined on the basis of a fake rape allegation, that go beyond the pale."
The conversations sparked by #MeToo should consider "both genders", she said.
"It's important that this debate be about … how we can ensure that one person, one side's attempt at being able to speak out more, doesn't become a way of oppressing the other side."
Moving away from a tendency to air accusations in private was beneficial for all parties, Ms Triggs said, not just for men who may have been falsely accused.
"Most importantly, and I do go back to my experience with the Human Rights Commission, it must be a safe and confidential environment for women. If they feel their allegations are going to be put into the media … they're not going to do it.
"We know they're not going to do it. So it's key that we establish safe, confidential environments, possibly external to the organisation, where these issues can be safely considered."
Research conducted in the US in 2010 estimated that between two to 10 per cent of rape accusations were found to be false.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation believes the number of "unfounded" accusations is about eight per cent.
However, as the Q&A panellists also pointed out that a significant number of women do not come forward after experiencing sexual assault, harassment or rape.
In the US and UK, authorities believe between 30 and 40 per cent of victims never come forward to make a formal complaint.
During her time at the Human Rights Commission, Ms Triggs said "hundreds" of matters a year dealt with sexually based allegations.
"We would resolve (them) quietly in the small rooms at the Commission, bringing in perhaps an executive of a major company, and you would get a face-to-face examination of the issue," she said.
"And you would have the matter, in 76 per cent of cases in formal complaints, we would resolve them quietly and confidentially."
Ms Triggs said in the majority of cases, once an allegation was brought into the public arena, "women almost always came out second or third best".
Ms Triggs said all organisations had a responsibility to deal directly with matters when they were raised.
"It's a health and safety issue at minimum. But it's also an environment in which there's huge risks to the organisation, to the ability to carry out its objectives," she said.
However, more work needed to be done to encourage victims of sexual assault, harassment or rape to feel safe enough to come forward.
At the moment, far too many don't, she said.
"It is absolutely typical - the woman concerned will raise the issue at particular levels, perhaps test the waters, see what kind of response she's getting, and very rapidly retreat and not make a formal complaint," Ms Triggs said.
"And that is typical globally. Women simply don't proceed because they see it as too dangerous, because they know, there's a very high probability, they'll be the ones that suffer."