Brave Drag Race Canada Vs The World star Anita Wigl’it talks to Oliver Hall about how surviving sexual assault changed her life, standing up for herself and taking her attacker to court.

Anita Wigl’it is on top of the world in 2023. She has just exhibited at DragCon UK earlier this month after completing a massive UK tour and competing on Drag Race Canada Vs The World.

Following her success on Drag Race Down Under Season One, pandemic restrictions grounded Anita and her co-stars, so Ms Wigl’it focused on nationally touring her one-woman show, Funny Gurl, which she is taking to Australia later this month. 


“It was so fun,” Anita tells us of the show, which she performed extensively around the country, taking in smaller cities and rural areas that rarely experience drag shows. 

“Even if people didn’t go to the show, they would have seen the posters of a drag queen around their town and on social media. It just goes that step further, to normalise drag performers and people in the rainbow community.”

Unlike most drag shows, Anita went beyond songs and jokes and revealed she was a survivor of sexual assault. 

‘We see drag as a vehicle for fun,” she explains. “You do some comedy, you do a song, and it’s all kind of all the same. No matter whose drag show you go to, you will laugh. I felt this was an opportunity to connect with the audience on a different level and really show some vulnerability.”

Anita, who is an acclaimed trumpet player in the Royal New Zealand Navy Band, told audiences about a time she was touring internationally with the band and suddenly lost the ability to play even the most basic of tunes. Nothing was physically affecting her, but with therapy she realised it stemmed from repressing memories of a sexual assault.

Like many sexual assault survivors, internally, Anita had been blaming herself. “I must have said something or allowed it to happen. Somehow given the cues that I was okay with it,” she thought. 

“It wasn’t until I read an article about someone else’s story of sexual abuse, I thought, I would never say that this person was at fault. So why do I say that I’m at fault for this. That was a real life-changing moment. I realised if they helped me, sharing my story could also help people,” she tells express. 

The 2018 NZ Crime and Victim Survey results estimated that 34% of Kiwi women and 12% of men will experience sexual violence at some point in their lives, so it is unsurprising that following performances of Funny Gurl, Anita was inundated with audience members who thanked her for sharing her story, and also sharing their own. 

Anita tells us this helped her to realise, “We all have the same feelings of guilt. The guilt of taking someone to court and, if you’re successful in your court case, sending that person to prison, for something that, even though you know it was wrong, you still think, ‘Did I do something wrong?’”

Like so many New Zealand survivors, for Anita, unpacking these feelings came second to her primary goal of not running into her high-profile attacker.

“When I was invited to events, I wouldn’t want to go for fear of bumping into him. We work in such close circles in New Zealand.”

For Anita, feeling this way came coupled with a different type of guilt. “I’m a very strong person usually, and I’m the victim here. I shouldn’t be the one feeling awkward and ashamed,” she explains, adding: “At the same time, I’m so against confrontation, I’d rather just not go and not risk the chance of having to see him again.”

Anita Wigl’it wears a custom designed Karen Walker dress, photographed by Mikhail Gherman.

According to TOAH-NNEST (the National Network for preventing sexual violence) it is estimated that only 9% of sexual violence offences are reported to police. 

Anita chose to report her assault to NZ Police, telling us, “They did such an amazing job handling the situation.”

“The reason I went to the police is I felt a real duty of not letting this happen to other people,” she tells us. 

“I was aware other people had gone to the police about the same man because I recognised the story in the news, even though he wasn’t named. I wanted to add my voice and help them in their journey.”

Her advice to other survivors who might be considering whether to report their assault is, “You’ve got to play by your own rules.”

“If you feel confident in yourself or want to share your story with the police to press charges, then I really recommend that.”

“If you don’t want to share it, I think it’s really good to receive some counselling and to be able to talk to someone about it, because otherwise you internalise it, and you will likely think it’s your fault. It’s good to be supported by someone in that way.”

Reporting sexual assault to the police can mean you may end up in court, as Anita did.

“You’ve got to be prepared to go through those emotions that you felt when it happened again, because you have to describe everything in detail,” Anita tells us with sobering honesty.

It is also the job of the defendants lawyers to cast doubt on the accuser’s claims. 

“The cross examination from his lawyer was ridiculous,” Anita recalls. “They went through my social media and recorded all of these things, questioning why I hadn’t mentioned the attack? Of course, I wouldn’t post about it!”

The lawyer tried to further embarrass Anita by bringing her profession into question. “He brought up the fact that I was a drag queen and suggested it was a shady industry… I found myself getting quite fed up with his lawyer trying to discredit me for being a drag.”

If found guilty an attacker will be punished for their assault, but not all cases are won. Ministry of Justice figures from 2020 highlighted only 31% of NZ sexual assault cases lead to a conviction. Like the other 69%, Anita’s accused attacker was also found ‘not guilty.’ 

“The jury has to decide ‘beyond reasonable doubt’,” explains Anita, “and it was my word against his. Even though my story matched several others, which he had already been found guilty of.

“When he was found ‘not guilty’, I thought, ‘why did I go through it again?’” Anita tells us, reliving the disappointment and despondency before sharing some words that mean a lot to her.

“Even though they’re found ‘not guilty’, it doesn’t mean they’re innocent… This was my opportunity to say what had happened and the impact it had on me. Hopefully, [my attacker] would have learned a lesson from that.

“I hope his days of assaulting people are over. He has already done it to countless people, I’m sure.”


If you need help dealing with sexual harm you can contact Safe to Talk for free, confidential and non-judgmental support from trained specialists. Available 24/7 with interpreters for 44 languages, free call 0800 044 334 or free text 4334. In emergencies call 111.