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Women in Film Los Angeles is establishing a help line for men and women who experience sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
The help line, which is expected to go live by Dec. 1 and be available year-round, will serve as a confidential crisis center for callers and refer them to follow-up resources, including mental-health counseling and law-enforcement and legal services.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook since these harassment stories began to break,” WIF executive director Kirsten Schaffer said in a statement. “We are hearing that victims feel isolated, that there is nowhere safe to go to tell their stories, that they believe they must keep their experiences silent or they will be sued or black-balled and that they feel helpless, fearing the legal costs of trying to do anything about what has happened to them.”
Greenberg Glusker partner Bonnie Eskenazi is putting together a panel of employment, labor, contract and civil-rights lawyers, who each will provide at least 10 hours of pro-bono service to the help line. “This plan provides victims of sexual harassment with certain resources to take actions consistent with their level of comfort and gives the victim control over how to address the violation and when,” Eskenazi said in a statement. “It also decreases concerns about legal costs.”
The help line, which is receiving seed funding from WIF founding partner WME, comes amid more than a month’s worth of personal testimonies of sexual harassment and assault from current and former members of the entertainment industry. One repeated refrain in these accounts is that the victims felt they had no emotional or legal recourse in their situations.
“I’m sad that we are in a place where the formation of a crisis and relief center for victims of sexual harassment and sex crimes is necessary, but I have no doubt that Women in Film’s deep familiarity with the business and behavior of our community, position as an independent and not-for-profit entity, institutional knowledge of discrimination and the social science surrounding change models, as well as our deep devotion to our members and friends, will enable the helpline and legal aid panel to move the national conversation about workplace harassment in a positive and curative direction,” WIF president Cathy Schulman said in a statement. “We also welcome all companies and organizations devoted to ending these practices to contribute their thoughts and expertise to our efforts, as we are all in this together.”
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