Women in Film is starting a sexual harassment Help Line and pro bono legal service to assist those in the entertainment industry who’ve encountered any mistreatment in the past. The service is expected to be operational as of December 1 and be available every day throughout the year.
Founding Partner WME has provided seed funding to build and staff the Help Line.
The legal aid panel will refer both women and men who are in need of designated mental health counselors, law enforcement professionals and civil and criminal lawyers and litigators. The Help Line also will double as a crisis center and information hub. Litigator Bonnie Eskenazi, a partner at Greenberg Glusker, is assembling the panel; each member will volunteer a minimum of 10 hours of pro bono service.
WIF president Cathy Schulman said in a statement: “I’m sad that we are in a place where the formation of a crisis and relief center for victims of sexual harassment and sex crimes is necessary, but I have no doubt that Women in Film’s deep familiarity with the business and behavior of our community, position as an independent and not-for-profit entity not aligned with any particular studio, agency, or company, institutional knowledge of discrimination and the social science surrounding change models, as well as our deep devotion to our members and friends, will enable the Help Line and legal aid panel to move the national conversation about workplace harassment in a positive and curative direction. We also welcome all companies and organizations devoted to ending these practices to contribute their thoughts and expertise to our efforts, as we are all in this together.”
Added Kirsten Schaffer, Executive Director of WIF: “Our phones have been ringing off the hook since these harassment stories began to break. We are hearing that victims feel isolated, that there is nowhere safe to go to tell their stories, that they believe they must keep their experiences silent or they will be sued or black-balled and that they feel helpless, fearing the legal costs of trying to do anything about what has happened to them. The Help Line will be staffed by trained experts to address these concerns, and all information will be kept strictly confidential.”