[The Sexuality Blog] Non-disclosure agreements silence victims, why are they still a thing?

Just when you think you’ve heard everything about Harvey Weinstein, something else pops up that makes you question just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Zelda Smith, Weinstein’s long time assistant just gave a public statement a few days ago, announcing that she was reneging on her Non-Disclosure Agreement with Weinstein’s lawyers and coming forward with her own personal allegations of sexual harassment. Smith who worked with Weinstein in the 90’s says she suffered extensive attempts by Weinstein to either give him massages or outright sexual advances. She alleges he would try to drag her into his bed by force and would speak lewdly to her. It is some pretty scary stuff and she had to endure it for a number of years before she finally took action and was settled out of court.

What is truly horrifying about Smith coming out is that her Non-disclosure agreement was signed in 1998. Let that sink in.

The NDA that forbade her from speaking about the harassment she suffered at Harvey Weinstein’s hands was signed nearly 20 years ago.

And for 20 years she couldn’t tell anyone about what happened or risk being sued for insane amounts of money or worse, found in contempt of her agreement and put in jail. There are hundreds of other women apparently who were also forced or convinced by their lawyers to settle privately with Weinstein and sign non-disclosure agreements. Of course these agreements have their place, but for them to be used to gag women who have suffered rape, assault, harassment and abuse is inexcusable. It simply is not.

How many other rapists and sexual abusers are walking free because they managed to gag their victims in this way; we will never know. But it is certainly time we considered the cost of keeping these men in positions of power.

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