#MeToo Update: Hollywood Workers Demand Accountability for Sexual Abuse

#MeToo Update: Hollywood Workers Demand Accountability for Sexual Abuse
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Hollywood Commission for Eliminating Harassment and Advancing Equality, led by Anita Hill and founded by Kathleen Kennedy and Nina Shaw, has released findings from a new industry-wide survey of entertainment workers about their experiences of sexual harassment and bias on the job.

“For too long in Hollywood, there have been ‘open secrets’ about the harassment perpetrated on workers by powerful people who are able to successfully evade accountability for their actions,” said Hill. “With this survey, we have identified the most vulnerable workers in Hollywood and the resources and systems that will provide support and a safety net for them.”

The national, anonymous surveay was conducted online last November to February with nearly 10,000 people responding. Several themes emerged from the survey.

There is Little Accountability for Harassment in Hollywood

Only 28 percent of women in the industry believe that people in power are held accountable for harassment (versus 45 percent of men).

Voices of Respondents:

“The industry tolerates bad behavior by powerful people. Producers, actors, and above the line individuals are rarely held accountable for tyrannical behavior.”

“Many times high level folks get huge paydays to leave – seems like they’re rewarded for bad behavior.  #MeToo seems to have stalled while offenders are still at it.”

“Just because a few famous offenders are being held accountable when reported by the most famous victims does not mean anything has changed for the rest of us.”

“Any perceived progress that has been made in Hollywood has been a smokescreen. If someone is powerful enough, they are untouchable, no matter the abuse. Nothing about this has changed.”

Abuse of Power Continues

Less than half (48 percent) of workers saw progress in addressing power abuse since the MeToo resurgence in October 2017.

The primary offenders in Hollywood are powerful people who can influence who gets hired (55 percent) and fired (59 percent), and can damage the reputations of those who complain about abuse (59 percent).

Voices of Respondents:

“Stop allowing for a caste system on set.”

“Our industry is hierarchical by its very nature, and those on the bottom get abused by those higher up the food chain. This has always been the way.”

“Power dynamics at talent agencies are extremely imbalanced. There is one person with all the power and one person with none at all. The dynamic naturally leads to abuse of power no matter what. Assistants live in fear, are perpetually stressed, overworked and are the backbone of the entire industry.”

“I know so many assistants who are in therapy and have diagnosed PTSD and anxiety disorders because of the abuse they endure on a daily basis. The power dynamics are horrible and it is accepted ‘Hollywood’ behavior to manipulate and abuse assistants.”

“The culture of entitlement and power that exists for producers, directors, production managers and other above the line people trickles down. Sexual harassment is part of the bullying, lack of consideration and general bad behavior that these people believe is their due to dole out because they believe they can and that they are masters of the universe.”

“Problems around harassment and bullying remain systemic and institutional.”

“Even people who have done horrible things still get considered for jobs.”


Here at Ms., our team is continuing to report through this global health crisis—doing what we can to keep you informed and up-to-date on some of the most underreported issues of this pandemic. We ask that you consider supporting our work to bring you substantive, unique reporting—we can’t do it without you. Support our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Reporting Rare for Fear of Retaliation

Few victims of sexually harassing behaviors shared their experiences with a supervisor (23 percent), human resources (9 percent), or legal department (4 percent). 

Sixty-nine percent of workers who experience sexual coercion don’t report because they do not believe anything will be done. Two-fifths (41 percent) of survey respondents reported that they experienced some type of retaliatory behavior. 

Voices of Respondents:

“If I ever reported anything about someone I worked for I would be blacklisted.  You can pretend otherwise BUT That’s just how it is.”

“There are still too many victims that will be blackballed if they report.”

“The power structure in this industry makes it impossible for victims to come forward. More harassment, bad reputation, and eventual firing is guaranteed after filing a complaint.”

“I’m not sure that there is a ‘safe’ way to report experiences.”

“All I can say is that in our industry if you rock the boat you get silenced and you don’t get hired anymore.”

Resources for Survivors

Based on the survey data and participants’ narrative responses, the Hollywood Commission is launching new resources for survivors, including a platform to identify repeat offenders and bystander intervention training. 

Multiple complaints about the same person are frequent. The repeat offender platform—which will launch at the start of next year—gives workers a way to anonymously share experiences of sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment, bullying or microaggressions. Workers may choose to report immediately or to file a conditional report, in which case they will be notified if other people in the organization also file complaints about the same aggressor. They can then decide whether to release their identity and participate in an investigation.

The platform will also provide an anonymous messaging system to allow survivors to ask questions about the process of reporting and learn how to create a time-stamped record

The Hollywood Commission is also piloting bystander intervention training with 450 entertainment workers to teach them how to respond when incidents of harassment and abuse occur.

 “Our expectation is that these tools will be the foundation to build a new era of transparency and accountability for all workers in the entertainment industry,” says Hill.

You may also like:


The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-movingDuring this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

About

Carrie N. Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is a Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. Her 2007 book The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment won the National Women’s Studies Association Sara A. Whaley Book Prize. Her second book, Fighting the U.S. Youth Sex Trade: Gender, Race, and Politics, tells the story of activism against youth involvement in the sex trade in the United States between 1970 and 2015. Baker is the President of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts.