Women in Film Launches Sexual Harassment Support Group (Exclusive)

Courtesy of subject (Giannini) and Them Kuo (The Wright Institute)
The Wright Institute Los Angeles; (inset) Ilana Bar-Din Giannini

The organization is partnering with mental health non-profit Wright Institute Los Angeles to offer a new free resource for women in the entertainment industry.

Women in Film is partnering with fellow non-profit Wright Institute Los Angeles to launch an entertainment industry-specific support group for survivors of sexual harassment, The Hollywood Reporter has exclusively learned.

The free and confidential group, called Safe Space, originated after WIF reached out to filmmaker-turned-psychotherapist Ilana Bar-Din Giannini, who had penned a THR guest column sharing her own #MeToo story of being harassed in the AFI directing fellowship in 1980. In addition to her private practice, Giannini serves as group therapies program director at WILA, which has provided affordable mental health care in L.A. since 1974.

“When you get women together in a room, being able to talk to each other in an environment that promises confidentiality gives women a chance to take a second breath,” she tells THR. “What I often hear is women holding on to self-recrimination, but when they hear somebody else say, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have stayed late at the office,’ they find a sense of perspective in looking at others that they can then apply to themselves.”

The pilot program will meet once a week for five weeks, beginning in mid-February. WILA is now assembling the group — which will include no more than 10 people — from callers to the Women in Film Help Line who have expressed interest.

“Group therapy can be a powerful tool in a survivor’s path to healing and taking meaningful action against predatory behavior,” WIF executive director Kirsten Schaffer tells THR. “WILA’s team of dedicated, trauma-informed therapists will help WIF expand the resources we’re able to offer to survivors of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.”

In addition to more general psychodynamic therapeutic approaches, Safe Space also will explore the unique dynamics of working in the entertainment industry. “The Hollywood culture is one in which people immediately assume a very chummy kind of tone, which makes it hard sometimes to set boundaries,” says Giannini, who will lead the group with a trainee. “It’s also often a very sexualized environment, so women in the industry have a very specific kind of struggle.”

As the need arises, WILA and WIF are prepared to form more groups, including groups for male survivors. Anyone interested in a referral to Safe Space can call WIF’s sexual harassment help line at 323-525-0333.

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