On Tuesday, November 28th, the organization Women in Film (WIF) held a panel on sexual and gender abuse in the workplace at the West Hollywood Library. The panel was made up of actress Heather Graham, writer Rosette Laursen, lecturer Kathleen A. Tarr, casting director Tracy Byrd and lawyer Cindy Bamforth, and was moderated by WIF President Cathy Schulman.
After the outbreak of allegations against many powerful men in the entertainment industry, WIF felt the need to gather these experts to publicly speak about power-based gender abuse, sexual advances, and intimidation in Hollywood. The women also shared personal stories and opinions on the matter.
Graham, who recently wrote and directed the film Half Magic, which addresses abuse within the entertainment industry, said that she has experienced sexual harassment as an actress on many different occasions.
“I want to empower women to hopefully make the world a better place,” Graham said. “I found [the allegations against Weinstein] to be so exciting because I felt like women were finally speaking their truths, and finally being heard, and finally doing something about it.”
Rosette Laursen spoke about her decision to post private emails talent manager Michael Einfeld accidentally sent her, in which he expressed that, “Someone should sew [Laursen’s] vagina shut.” The post went viral in August.
“I didn’t want him to just go on with no repercussions,” Laursen said. “It was the fact that another assistant was going to have to take that job that made me so sick.”
Laursen was rejected by several publications before she decided to take matters into her own hands and expose Einfeld herself.
“I don’t think I was brave or anything, I was super freaked out,” she said. “It went crazy, crazy, crazy viral — I did not expect it at all.”
At the end of the event, WIF announced their plans of holding another panel on December 1st, where anyone can receive help and advice from other sexual abuse survivors, designated mental health professionals, and lawyers. They also unveiled their sexual harassment helpline, which anyone can call from Monday through Friday, 10-5 PST. The hotline serves as a crisis center and information source.
On their website, WIF also explains the definition of sexual harassment in California and what people can do if they are experiencing it in the workplace. They advise to write down details of the incident, including what happened and who may have witnessed it, then to report the incident in writing. It is important to know your company’s policies on sexual harassment and what their investigation process entails. They also advise calling an attorney.
The WIF organization wants to make it clear that they recognize that there is a serious problem in the industry regarding harassment and sexual abuse. They are encouraging anyone who needs help to call their hotline or get help from the resources they have provided online. Harassment is unacceptable and perpetrators, no matter how powerful, will be accountable for their actions.
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