In the Wake of Weinstein Film, Two Actresses Team Up to Fight Sexual Misconduct in Hollywood
Hollywood actress Caitlin Dulany entered an upscale coffee shop last January ready to share a painful memory: the moment she says Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed her. Once inside, Dulany found herself surrounded by a dozen or so women who also said they’d survived harassment or assault by the Hollywood mogul, and had come to tell their story on camera for the FRONTLINE/BBC film Weinstein. Many were actors in the entertainment industry. One in particular stood out to Dulany: Jessica Barth.
Best known for her role in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted films, Barth had become an outspoken critic of Weinstein since the news of his alleged abuses broke last year. She’d launched a viral #WhoIsYourHarvey campaign and established an e-mail address for people to submit their stories of sexual violence. If someone named the same perpetrator, Barth offered to match them with one another, hoping to encourage more women to come forward.
Dulany made a beeline for Barth.
“I was excited to meet her in person on the filming of this documentary and just wanted to work with her on it,” said Dulany, referring to the Harvey hashtag.
In the café, the pair immediately started to brainstorm ways to stamp out sexual violence in the entertainment industry. They settled on a goal: Establish an organization they wish had existed in the aftermath of their alleged encounters.
The result is Voices in Action, an organization to help survivors report sexual harassment and abuse — and if they choose, take steps toward a legal remedy. Their website launched last week, and it’s expected to be fully operational later this month. The women’s connection was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
“We have been talking for a year with the [Screen Actors Guild] and [Hollywood Commission] about doing something like this, and everybody wants to do it,” said Barth. “Everybody is dragging their feet, so we did it.”
The organization draws from Barth’s earlier efforts — the incident reporting and matching system — which distinguishes the group from the many others that have cropped up in light of #MeToo. Victims can complete an incident form on the
organization’s website, which is then time-stamped and encrypted. Those who decide to take legal action can use the form as evidence, and connect with the National Crime Victim Bar Association to find a pro bono lawyer.
When more than one victim names the same perpetrator, there’s an opportunity for them to connect and possibly combine their complaints.
“It’s very, very difficult in our business to know where to report and who to report to,” Dulany said. “A lot of actors basically work as independent contractors, you know, and go from job to job working for different films and different companies.” Dulany has worked on a number of shows, including E.R. and Law and Order. She does not appear in the final version of Weinstein.
Lawyers around the country have been grappling with how best to address multi-perpetrator lawsuits against alleged abusers, such as the Bill Cosby and Weinstein cases.
“It’s a very scary thing to talk to journalists and to know who to talk to about these kinds of things,” said Dulany, who said she waited years to share her story out of concerns for her safety. “There’s a lot of fear and a lot of reluctance.”
The two celebrities hope their matching system encourages others to come forward.
So far, Barth and Dulany are personally funding the organization. They launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover operational costs.
The organization has already drawn comparisons to a crowdsourced Google spreadsheet that invited anonymous users to share their allegations of sexual harassment against men in media. The list ignited controversy: one of the men accused in the list is currently suing the creator for $1.5 million in damages.
The Voices in Action founders say their website is different. “This is not about calling out the bad guys,” said Barth. “This is about arming victims with knowledge and resources to empower them.”
They also hope to encourage more men to speak out. Male celebrities who have gone public with their stories of sexual abuse, including Terry Crews and Johnathon Schaech, have signed on as brand ambassadors.
Recent setbacks in the criminal case against Weinstein underscore how hard it is to hold the powerful to account. His attorneys recently filed a motion seeking to dismiss the entire criminal case after the prosecution dismissed one of the six criminal charges against him due to alleged police misconduct.
One accuser, Lucia Evans, had alleged that the former producer forced her to perform oral sex on him. Last month it was abruptly revealed that a detective working on the case, Nicholas DiGaudio, had withheld information from the defense about a witness who cast doubt on that account. The New York Police Department began investigating allegations that DiGaudio had improperly coached the witness. The defense team is now requesting the Manhattan District Attorney’s office disclose all information regarding DiGaudio’s discussions with witnesses while he was working on the case.
Weinstein has consistently denied any non-consensual sexual conduct. Even though more than 100 women have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, New York is the only jurisdiction that has levied criminal charges against him.