Sexual abuse in the entertainment industry dates back as far as 1921, with the last decade showing an increase in accusations against actors, directors, related publicists, and producers. After the Roman Polanski incident in 1977, speculation regarding sexual assault in the industry intensified as he was convicted on charges of sexual abuse with a minor. Media coverage grew extensively with the Harvey Weinstein case as he was accused of sexually abusing more than eighty women.
Abusers are being punished, and victims are receiving the justice they deserve. Anyone who has suffered abuse or an assault has the right to step forward and seek the help and justice they deserve to stop these crimes from continuing in the entertainment industry. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm understands how intimidation and threats, when applied to sexual abuse, can cause severe emotional upset and are there for you to seek the justice you deserve.
Sexual Abuse and Harassment in California Entertainment Industry
Most people have a hard time believing their favorite TV actors or anchors are capable of committing sexual crimes. These people come into living rooms across the country as respected, honest people, and the public believes the image they send across our screens. Seeing these people in our homes so often makes one start to believe they know them, and that they are the person displayed on the screen.
The image created by abusers in the entertainment industry is what makes it difficult for their victims to come forward. These personalities are able to groom people to trust them and make any accusations against them appear unbelievable. Victims in the entertainment industry suffering from sexual abuse or harassment not only have to fight their abuser; they have to fight public opinion. This battle can appear as frightening as the abuse itself and makes coming forward more complicated than most other sexual abuse victims.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, sexual harassment or abuse is a form of sex discrimination and therefore illegal. Sexual abuse or harassment is considered unwelcome sexual advances which could be verbal, visual, or physical conduct in a sexual nature or action that results in intimidation, hostile, or offensive work environments.
Working in the film and television industry, boundary lines between what is social and what is work time can often be blurry. Many in the industry work late into the night, have to appear at remote locations, attend wrap parties that include a lot of alcohol, as well as film festivals where both business and social intermix. During all these situations, one's behavior can often slide into a non-professional territory, which can lead to serious repercussions.
Women typically suffer the brunt of sexual abuse and harassment in these conditions as it seems they are the ones expected to put up with everything from unwelcome comments to the unwanted physical touch. Women are often threatened with their position if they do not comply with these advances.
In the past few years, both California and New York have begun legislation aimed at giving more protection to those harassed in their workplace. It may be difficult to keep up with all legal requirements, but it is a necessity to keep everyone feeling safe and respected while performing their jobs. It has become especially critical to educate cast and crew members of the entertainment industry on what behaviors are legally permissible and to make sure their management is leading by example.
As part of the new legislation, the laws put into place are designed to motivate production companies to look at how they are handling issues of abuse, discrimination, and harassment when they occur. Both the film and TV industries have a long way to go to show equal representation along with equal opportunity exist in their field. With the passing of these laws and some education, it is hoped the impact can create an evaluation of these workplaces concerning their bias and culture.
Fair Employment and Housing Act
FEHA (The Fair Employment and Housing Act) was adopted in 1959 and is the state’s principal statute prohibiting employment discrimination. The act covers employment agencies, anyone who abets a person in any manner into performing a discriminatory act, labor organizations, and apprenticeship programs. Employment discrimination is prohibited against a person for their age, sex, religious beliefs, medical conditions, pregnancy, mental disabilities, national origin, ancestry, physical disabilities, or marital status.
This act was adopted with the intent to provide effective remedies for eliminating certain types of discrimination regarding employment opportunities and the workplace. There has been an update to this act which impacts harassment claims filed under FEHA and includes the following:
- The pervasive or severe legal standard was replaced so that a single incident of harassing conduct is now considered sufficient to create a triable issue regarding proof there is a hostile work environment present.
- A plaintiff will no longer have the burden of proof that their tangible productivity suffered as a result of the harassment. They are now allowed to present the fact that a ‘reasonable person’ who would be subjected to the alleged discriminatory or harassing conduct would find it alters their working conditions and makes it more difficult or impossible to perform the job.
- Evidence in a FEHA claim will now accept discriminatory remarks that are made, even if given by a non-decision maker or were not made in the context of an employment decision.
- The legal standard will no longer vary according to types of the workplace for sexual harassment charges.
The impact this act now has on agreements between employees and their employers has changed. Senate Bill 1300 will now prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to sign a non disparagement agreement or any other agreement which would deny them the right to disclose information regarding unlawful acts performed in the workplace which includes sexual harassment or abuse.
Other impacts fall under Senate Bill 820, which will prohibit confidentiality clauses be included in settlement agreements if the clause would impact the disclosure of factual information concerning sexual assault or abuse that occurred. There are also new laws under Assembly Bill 3109 which will prohibit a settlement agreement entered on or after January 2019 that would limit a person’s right to testify in a judicial, legislative, or administrative proceeding regarding alleged sexual harassment or criminal conduct.
How Sexual Abuse Occurs in Entertainment
Sexual abuse does not always involve rape; it can also include:
- Receiving inappropriate touches such as hugging, kissing, and groping
- Receiving a threat if you do not engage in a sexual act
- Being forced to watch as an abuser masturbates
- Being penetrated with a foreign object
- Being forced to use alcohol or drugs to ensure your pliancy
Sexual abusers typically want gratification; they are seeking to gain power over their victims and then maintaining that power over their actions. For many victims in the entertainment industry, the fear of losing their jobs, ruining their reputation, or never being able to find work in the industry again, are the fears that allow their abuser to have control over them.
The abuse of power is the main reason so many victims choose to stay silent and suffer through the assaults. Sexual assault and abuse is a deeply personal attack and can leave you traumatized for years. A recent study of the media and entertainment industry shows more than forty percent of women in these industries state either a colleague or their boss have sexually harassed them. This percentage is the highest in white-collar industries.
The report also showed that across eight industry categories more than thirty percent of the women and more than twelve percent of the men have at one time in their careers been a victim of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. These results are proof there is an unusually high occurrence of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry.
Sexual Abuse versus Sexual Harassment
Sexual abuse and sexual harassment often blend in today’s world. Abuse can involve sexually touching a victim or forcing them to touch another sexually. It is also considered abuse to force someone to look at sexual parts or watch sexual activity.
Sexual harassment covers the same points as sexual abuse but is used in a much broader sense. Harassment can include sexual abuse, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention, including rape and assault. Sexual harassment is often used to cover a larger area of behaviors than sexual abuse would include, but the two terms generally cover the unwanted sexual advances or attention of another.
Why is Sexual Abuse More Rampant in the Entertainment Industry?
The entertainment industry is relationship-driven, and the gatekeepers or those in control can reward their victims with money, visibility, and influence. This sense of power is abused as it is turned into sexual harassment, which is all about having power and control. In a survey conducted on sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, there were hundreds of women who state they suffered some form of sexual harassment during their Hollywood career that they did not report. Their fear of the power held by their abusers is what has kept them silent.
Nearly all of the women who participated in the study stated they experienced some form of sexual abuse or harassment by an individual who was in a position of power over them. Almost one-fifth of those state they had been forced to perform some sexual act at least once. These are the type of sexual abuse or harassment they faced:
- Jokes or gestures with a sexual undertone about themselves
- Having to witness others experiencing forms of unwanted sexual comments
- Receiving sexual touches
- Seeing others advance their career by performing sexual relations with their managers
- Receiving sexual propositions
- Having to view sexual pictures without consent
- Having someone flash or expose themselves
- Being forced into a sexual act
- Ordered to appear naked for an audition
The study went on to show only one in four of the women reported their experiences to anyone as they feared retaliation or backlash that could have affected their professional goals. A surprising fact that came out of the study was that more than one-third of the women conducting the survey were not sure that what they experienced could constitute sexual harassment. These results show why misconduct in the industry has been allowed to flourish. Few are complaining to those in authority and exposing their abusers so that a stop can be made of these illegal actions.
In a male-dominated industry, boundary-crossing behavior flourishes. These behaviors are compounded by environments where the workplace is not always clearly defined. When you are out drinking coffee with crew members is it still considered being at the office? The situation and location do not matter from a legal stand-point as standards of professional behavior, and respect for others doesn’t change with the environment.
People are not given a ‘free pass’ simply because they acted inappropriately during a drinking episode, but argue they would not have behaved in that manner in the office. The new legislation reinforces this standing and has lowered the legal standards regarding what constitutes a hostile work environment. The new law also covers consultants and independent contractors as well as employees.
Types of Sexual Abuse and Harassment
In an employment situation, there are two types of sexual abuse or harassment. The first type is ‘quid pro quo,’ which translates into ‘you give something to receive something.’ In the entertainment world, this would translate into giving something sexual for some form of advancement in your career.
The second form of sexual abuse or harassment is the ‘hostile work environment.’ This form of abuse happens when you are subjected to unwanted harassing concerning your age, gender, or gender expression. This conduct becomes labeled severe when it alters your terms and conditions of employment. It is harassment or abuse if any reasonable person in your position would consider the environment to be abusive or hostile.
A hostile work environment consists of:
- Harassment directed at you
- When you personally witness harassment in your immediate environment
- When there is sexual favoritism displayed in your work environment
Sexual abuse or harassment can include, but is not limited to, these examples:
- Verbal, written, or physical, sexual harassment
- The victim and the abuser can be of the same sex
- The abuser can be your manager, supervisor, or co-worker
- You do not have to be the one harassed, but could be affected by the offensive conduct
- The harassment or abuse does not have to cause economic injury; it could be a threat of possibly causing such damage if you do not perform certain actions
- Anytime an act is performed which you do not welcome
If you think someone is making an unwanted sexual advance towards you, you are probably right. Trust your instincts in these situations as they will guide you on what is uncomfortable, unwelcome, and possibly illegal. Being a victim of sexual abuse or harassment puts you in a powerless and vulnerable position. There is help for these situations when you contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm where attorneys will discuss your situation and help you recover and receive justice from your abuser.
What You Can do if You are Sexually Abused
The first step is to tell your abuser to stop if you believe this is at all possible. It is a frightening step to take as they have most likely made you feel they have complete control over your future. Remember, this control is not real- you control your future, and they have to be told what they are doing is wrong. Having someone with you for support is very helpful in these situations.
Having someone with you will not only serve as support but also for corroboration should you take legal action against the abuser. If you cannot confront them in person, send them an email stating that you are asking them to stop. Email responses would also serve as documentation should you take legal action against this person.
If the abuse is physical, it is strongly recommended that you contact the police immediately and file a police report. This form of sexual abuse should also receive treatment from your physician. Any type of unwanted touching or sexual violence needs to treated by your physician and possibly by an emotional support group. Reaching out for help and talking about your experience is a difficult step to take, but the first step in healing is asking for help.
Anti-Sexual Harassment and Abuse Laws in California
The Fair Employment and Housing Act in California apply to any employer who employs more than five employees. This act has comprehensive and broad protections against any form of harassment based on one’s gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, pregnancy, race, religion, or medical condition. California already had required harassment training in place, but these harassment training laws have recently been expanded.
California now requires all employers with five or more employees to provide harassment training whether or not they are in supervisory roles or not. Other changes put into place include:
- Talent agencies have to give information to their clients regarding sexual harassment or abuse prevention, retaliation, and how to report these incidents.
- Employers are now liable for harassment committed by non employees if they knew, or were expected to know, the conduct could or has occurred.
- Single individuals can now be held personally liable for any form of harassment, sexual or not.
- Even a single incident of harassment or abuse will be the basis of a hostile work environment.
Legislative Updates and Changes for Sexual Abuse in 2019 for California
With all the changes and legislative updates going into place, it can be difficult for companies to know just what is expected to ensure they are complying with the law. The specifics might vary with where a business is based, but some actions can be taken to avoid potential liability by a company:
- There should be an anti-harassment policy in place that explicitly prohibits any sexual harassment or another form of harassment or abuse as well as the prohibition of any retaliation against an individual who makes a complaint.
- All employee handbooks should be updated to comply with the new federal and state laws, including the Paid Family Leave laws.
- State law-compliant anti-sexual harassment sensitivity training should be arranged for all employees.
California and New York are making real strides by amending their laws and increasing workplace protections for women and others in protected categories. When sexual harassment and abuse are not addressed, it can create a dysfunctional work environment, which, in the end, will negatively impact a company and all employees.
The entertainment industry has faced a lot of exposure and scrutiny over the past year. People are beginning to question and look at their business practices and how they treat both minorities and women. These new laws are a wake-up call to the industry as well as call to action. If you are suffering from sexual abuse or harassment in the entertainment industry, talk to Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm and find out how these new laws can help your situation.
How to Seek Legal Justice for Sexual Abuse in the Entertainment Industry or any other Workplace
Hollywood and throughout the entire entertainment industry, sexual abuse and harassment are common. Some accept this as part of the business as sexuality is part of the scripts, productions, and songs. Entertainment is an environment that can quickly become hostile as it is challenging to work and still maintain your dignity and ethical principles.
Just because it is a common happening, does not mean it is legal or right for one to have to suffer this type of abuse. You have the right to assert action and remedy any situation in your workplace that is uncomfortable or offensive in whichever industry you work. Report the issue to your employer or manager, and if appropriate steps are not taken to resolve the situation, contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm who is familiar with entertainment industry harassment in California. Your employer or abuser could be liable, and you may be eligible for compensation.
Is There Help Near Me for Help with Sexual Abuse Suffered in the Entertainment Industry?
The laws in California regarding Sexual Abuse are complex and changing. Victims are gaining new rights, and justice through these changes and they could help you. If you are suffering from sexual abuse working in the entertainment industry call Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm at 310-359-3451 today. Stop the intimidation, harassment, and abuse now.