The sexual harassment scandal that has shaken Hollywood to its core during the past two weeks, made me remember the last scene of Devil’s Advocate, in which Al Pacino–performing The Devil masterfully–confesses that his favorite sin is vanity.
Known as the mother of all vice, vanity is the true star of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the normalized practice known in the entertainment industry as “Casting Couch.”
For decades, high-class sexual predators, drunk with power and influence, have escaped spending time behind bars with the complicity of their victims’ silence by coercion.
However, although the people who open Pandora’s Box are actresses and celebrities, the sexual harassment dilemma in the workplace extends indiscriminately across industries in the world.
According to the poll by ABC News and the Washington Post on October 12th, 68% of the women who participated, said having experienced unwelcome sexual advances in the U.S. At the same time, 95% of those women said their attackers were not disciplined even though they were reported to their employers.
The cause of impunity roots in the non-disclosure agreements–known as NDAs–which are negotiated between victims and perpetrators in exchange for monetary compensation.
In other words, money talks and buries the victims under contractual clauses who can’t afford lengthy litigation battles or lack the emotional strength to endure their character assassination campaign in the public opinion court.
Nonetheless, albeit NDAs are powerful legal forms that keep victims quiet indefinitely, if the secret they hold is a felony, such as sexual abuse or rape, victims can still contact the authorities.
According to an article published in Los Angeles Times on October 23, the trick is that attorneys, from both sides, often hide this fact from their clients and seldom do they provide a copy of the signed final agreement.
On Tuesday, while I researched the topic for this post, the Financial Times published the exclusive interview with Zelda Perkins, a former Weinstein’s assistant at Miramax London. In light of the mounting allegations against her old boss, she decided to risk it all and break the NDA that she signed almost 20 years ago to settle a sexual harassment suit against the movie mogul.
Besides the nauseating descriptions about the sexual advances of Weinstein, Perkins’ story broke my heart. She remembers how lonely she felt during the negotiations of the settlement she didn’t want in the first place, and how her own attorneys made her feel guilty and not worthy of compassion.
According to her, justice swings in a balance between who has power and who doesn’t instead between what is right and what is wrong.
Any case of fruit can have a rotten apple. The same way any organization can experience an isolated case of sexual harassment without turning into the corporate culture. But, once management knows about it, and contrary to defending the victims they beef up their legal teams to save their “sacred cows”, is evidence that they sold their souls long ago to the Devil.
Thanks for reading and sharing.
This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119