What Women in Film is Doing About Sexual Harassment in the Entertainment Industry

Heather Graham Getty H 2016
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The organization brought together a panel of women working onscreen and behind the scenes, including Heather Graham, to discuss the recent events concerning sexual harassment in Hollywood.

During the Women in Film Speaker Series: Sexual & Gender Abuse in the Workplace Panel held Tuesday night at the West Hollywood Library, panelists made it clear that there is a problem with the balance of power in entertainment.

Actress Heather Graham, who sat on the panel, described the imbalance and how she is changing the status quo.

“I want to empower women to hopefully make the world a better place," Graham said before revealing that her form of "rebellion" was that she wrote and directed a film, Half Magic, that addresses harassment within the industry.

“I think sexism is in our culture, in general, but in my experience as an actress there’s a lot of sexual [harassment]," the star said. 

Graham spoke of working with Harvey Weinstein, but looked to the recent slew of allegations as a breakthrough moment. "I found [the allegations against Weinstein] to be so exciting because I felt like woman were finally speaking their truths, and finally being heard, and finally doing something about it.”

Former talent assistant Rosette Laursen, whose Facebook post with a screenshot of an email from her boss, manager Michael Einfeld, in which he told her to "sew her vagina shut," went viral in August, spoke out on her decision to post it publicly before the Hollywood harassment accusations took off in November.

“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."

She noted that her lawyer said people are more likely to be silenced by a payout than post the harassment publicly. Laursen added: "[That was] what made me really mad and be like, OK, this guy really thinks he can get away with anything, because he always has.”

After speaking with several publications and getting her story rejected due to threats of defamation, Laursen was given the idea to post the story on social media by reporters.

“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.”

Another panelist, Cindy Bamforth, a partner at Bowles Law, spoke to the legal rights of employees and human resources. “Change needs to come within the [human resources] system and outside the system. We are seeing more mandatory harassment training.”

Adding to the solutions of how to stop sexual harassment and assault, Women in Film will open a helpline and hold a pro bono legal aid panel with founding partner WME on Dec.1 at 10 a.m. PT. The panel and helpline will provide assistance to men and women from other survivors, designated mental health counselors, law enforcement professionals and civil and criminal lawyers and litigators. In addition, the line will serve as a crisis center and centralized information source and will be open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.