Many questions have come up amid the onslaught of sexual misconduct allegations made against Harvey Weinstein: how many Harvey Weinsteins are lurking in the entertainment industry? Who in Hollywood was privy to this abuse? How big of a role did his assistants play?
While the first two questions have already been answered (quite a few, and basically everyone) one of Weinstein’s former assistants is finally speaking out about what it was like to work for such a manipulative, powerful predator.
Zelda Perkins, who worked for the movie mogul during his stint running Miramax, became the first former staffer to publicly denounce an NDA — revealing how Weinstein’s network of lawyers helped protect his subordinates from speaking out about his wrongdoings.
In a bombshell interview with Financial Times, Perkins says breaking her NDA is a necessary step to shed light on how egregious the tightly-wound legal bindings are, explaining:
“I want to publicly break my non-disclosure agreement. Unless somebody does this there won’t be a debate about how egregious these agreements are and the amount of duress that victims are put under. My entire world fell in because I thought the law was there to protect those who abided by it. I discovered that it had nothing to do with right and wrong and everything to do with money and power.”
In fact, Perkins claims there were clauses in her contract that could have led to Weinstein’s ousting almost two decades ago, when she walked out of Miramax’s London office “for the last time” to see a lawyer with a female colleague.
According to the report, Perkins endured the usual sexual harassment while working as the producer’s assistant — Weinstein had allegedly exposed himself to her, asked for massages, and requested she watch him bathe. She recalls of the everyday inappropriateness:
“This was his behavior on every occasion I was alone with him. I often had to wake him up in the hotel in the mornings and he would try to pull me into bed.”
Ew, WTF? Sounds like a more degrading version of The Devil Wears Prada, except working for the literal devil.
But Perkins’ ultimate exit came after an unnamed female colleague told her that Weinstein had sexually assaulted her during the Venice Film Festival in 1998. She recalled:
“She was white as a sheet and shaking and in a very bad emotional state. She told me something terrible had happened. She was in shock and crying and finding it very hard to talk. I was furious, deeply upset and very shocked. I said: ‘We need to go to the police’ but she was too distressed. Neither of us knew what to do in a foreign environment.”
Eventually, the two sought legal advice from London-based law firm Simons Muirhead & Murton, and were encouraged to seek a settlement claim. After a negotiation, both sides agreed on a sum reported to be over $325,000 to be split between the two women.
The contract was signed in October 1998 and Perkins, who was 24 years old at the time, had not talked about the Hollywood veteran since. Of course, she had hoped for a completely different outcome at the time.
Perkins originally intended to expose Weinstein’s misconduct, but says she was advised against it by her lawyers. She continued:
“The lawyers were reluctant. They said words to the effect of: ‘they are not going to take your word against his with no evidence.’ I was very upset because the whole point was that we had to stop him by exposing his behavior. I was warned that he and his lawyers would try to destroy my credibility if I went to court. They told me he would try to destroy me and my family.”
Wanting to steer clear of that, Perkins settled with the agreement as presented by Weinstein’s lawyers. Now, however, she wants to highlight the types of non-disclosure agreements in which “the inequality of power is so stark and relies on money rather than morality.” She added:
“I want other women who have been sidelined and who aren’t being allowed to own their own history or their trauma to be able to discuss what they have suffered. I want them to see that the sky won’t fall in.”
Amen! Abusers like Harvey are only as powerful as the lawyers they surround themselves with — it’s time to strip these predators of their protection!
Weinstein’s camp responded to the FT report, denying the accusations through a spokesperson:
“The FT did not provide the identity of any individuals making these assertions. Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. Mr Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”
[Image via WENN.]