Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant has called for a change to UK law on gagging orders, after she was forced to stay silent over an attempted rape accusation leveled against the disgraced movie mogul.
Zelda Perkins, who worked for Weinstein’s Miramax Films in the UK in the 1990s, told BBC Newsnight that she tried to expose his behaviour after one of her co-workers said he had tried to rape her, which he denied.
Ms Perkins, who had signed a non-disclosure agreement, left Miramax after she was told by lawyers that she “didn’t have a chance” in exposing Weinstein’s behaviour.
She’s now broken her 19 years of silence by speaking publicly about the movie mogul’s mistreatment of women and “immoral” gagging orders..
She told Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis she wanted UK law on NDAs reformed to stop the rich and powerful covering up sexual assault and harassment.
“The last 19 years have been distressing, where I’ve not been allowed to speak, where I’ve not been allowed to be myself,” she said,
“It’s not just distressing for me, but for lots of women who have not been able to own their past, and for many of them, their trauma. Although the process I went through was legal, it was immoral.”
Recounting the time a distressed younger colleague told her Weinstein had tried to rape her during a trip abroad, she said she felt it was her duty to confront her boss.
“She was shaking, very distressed, and clearly in shock,” she said. “She didn’t want anybody to know and was absolutely terrified of the consequences. I spoke with her and tried to calm her down before confronting Harvey face to face.”
After Weinstein denied the allegation, the women sought legal advice but were shocked by what they were told.
“The lawyers made it very clear that we didn’t have very many options,” she said. “We had no physical evidence because we hadn’t gone to the police when we were abroad, and ultimately, it would be two young women’s words against Harvey Weinstein.
“In hindsight, my lawyers were giving me the advice they thought was best.
“However, they were saying, ‘You will get dragged backwards, forwards and sideways through the courts. As will your family, as will your friends, as will anybody who knows anything about you. You haven’t got a chance. You will be destroyed.’”
Afterwards, she eventually signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement but fought to get terms included, including Weinstein’s commitment to attend therapy.
“If you have an agreement that somebody has signed, that says that he will go to therapy, that he will be dismissed from his own company if anybody else makes a claim in the ensuing period, that an HR policy for sexual harassment has to be brought into the company, it’s pretty clear that something’s wrong,” she said.
She received £125,000 as part of the settlement, which she says she regrets.
She said: “I didn’t have the energy to go on fighting. It was not my obligation to follow up on his obligation.
“What’s extraordinary looking back is you’d imagine that Miramax Films would have been bending over backwards to make sure all of those obligations were fulfilled. But they weren’t. I really couldn’t stay in the industry at that point.”
Ms Perkins decided to break the terms of the NDA to not only shed light on Weinstein’s alleged abusive behaviour but also to urge UK Parliament to review the use of them in sexual harassment cases.
Senators in New York, New Jersey and California have drafted legislation aimed at banning them in such circumstances, and now Ms. Perkins wants the UK to follow suit.
She said: “I understand that non-disclosure agreements have a place in society, and for both sides. But it’s really important that legislation is changed around how these agreements are regulated.”
Weinstein’s lawyers told the BBC that he categorically denied engaging in any non-consensual conduct or alleged threatening behaviour. Miramax had no comment.