'L Word' Star Calls For "Survivor-Centered Reform" With #Aftermetoo (Guest Column)

Illustration by Zoe More O’Ferrall

"This moment can't be squandered," writes Mia Kirshner about her initiative to shift the focus from victim shaming to the perpetrators and enact change in practices, policies and laws.

Recently, after coming forward about experiencing sexual misconduct, a colleague advised that rather than taking meetings alone in hotel rooms, I should bring a friend. This idea is troubling. It reflects an ill-advised assumption that a friend could stop such behavior. It speculates that most of us have a network of people willing to leave their lives to attend meetings. More problematic is the culturally entrenched notion that those exposed to sexual misconduct in the workplace are the ones who should shoulder the responsibility of first-line defense. Finally, it fails to ask critical questions — why does this problem happen in the first place and what needs to be done to stop it?

Let’s shift the focus to the perpetrators. What will our industry do to protect us from them? How do we prevent this? Do the policies already in place adequately ensure that the accused is entitled to due process? At this moment, what concerns me is that answers to these questions are being created within separate institutional silos — the same silos that created much of the ineffective policy currently in place to deal with workplace sexual misconduct.

I’m trying to get answers. When I ask my unions what is being done to change their systems, I am unable to get anything but opaque replies. I saw a gleeful press release about new codes of conduct being formed. What good is that if they are non-binding? Recently, when I asked a high-ranking union official to participate in an industry-wide symposium on survivor-centered reform for workplace sexual misconduct, he dismissively said he was unavailable and wished me luck in the pursuit of gathering information. As an elected union official, his job is to listen to experts and survivors, yet he won’t join the conversation.

There’s a disconnect here. We need to work as a team. Up until recently, our stories of sexual misconduct were met with indifference by some of our representatives and even the institutions who are in a position to protect us. The whistle-blowers were at the bottom of a caste system determined by priorities that deem preservation of income streams and power more important than the protection of humanity in our workspaces.

In the spirit of collaboration, #Aftermetoo was formed by producer Aisling Chin-Yee, actress-producer Freya Ravensbergen and myself, in partnership with The Globe and Mail. The goal is to produce survivor-centered recommendations to reform. On Dec. 5 and 6, #Aftermetoo is hosting a symposium in Toronto, focusing on unchecked sexual misconduct in the film industry. Experts in trauma, nursing, law, tech, organizational behavior and film are coming together to move the conversation outside of silos. Canada’s Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould will be the keynote. Our goal is to identify clear gaps in our practices, policies and laws, and to provide recommendations for change. In the winter of 2018, we will publish a report to the public on how to propel culture, policy and legislation toward survivor-centered reform.

We have a brief opportunity. Enough people are finally listening. This moment can’t be squandered. Although I’m angry at how horribly our industry has dealt with sexual misconduct, I believe that our industry can shift culture, which in turn can shift law. In honor of those who have spoken out and those who could not, it is our duty to fix this. www.aftermetoo.com

A version of this story first appeared in the 2017 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.