SAG-AFTRA has launched a new digital platform that will allow members and third-party witnesses to report incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace, which will also allow the union to track repeat offenders. During a press conference today, the union also unveiled new standards for the training, registration and continuing education of intimacy coordinators who oversee sex scenes in films and TV shows. The union said that these two initiatives are the latest in its efforts to “change industry culture and eliminate harassment.”
With the launch of SAG-AFTRA Safe Place, members and witnesses can file confidential reports of sexual harassment that will be handled by the union’s Equity & Inclusion team, who are trained in trauma awareness and will work with the user to determine the best course of action and provide additional resources. Those who file reports can do so anonymously if they prefer. The union said that many of those who took part in the testing of the platform were themselves survivors of sexual harassment.
You can see the platform here.
Building on its Standards and Protocols for the Use of Intimacy Coordinators, which the union originally introduced in January 2020, the new standards for the training and qualification of intimacy coordinators is designed to safely expand the their numbers by providing employers with the ability to identify qualified and experienced candidates.
In addition to reviewing and vetting candidates for jobs as intimacy coordinators, the union’s accreditation system will also establish a standard to help potential registrants identify high-quality training programs. The program also includes a commitment to ensuring equity and inclusion for all applicants, the union said. SAG-AFTRA will also sponsor an intimacy coordinator conference annually for registry and pre-registry of participants to meet a continuing education requirement.
Submissions for the accreditation of training programs will begin May 1 and last through July 31. Submissions for applicants to the registry and pre-registry lists will begin August 1 and run through October 31.
“Protecting the well-being, security and dignity of our members is the reason that SAG-AFTRA exists,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Last year, SAG-AFTRA took a huge step toward normalizing and encouraging the use of intimacy coordinators in productions large and small. These professionals have proven to be effective in changing the culture while safeguarding the safety and security of our members as they work.”
The new standards for intimacy coordinators, Carteris said, will bring “meaningful change in the entertainment and media industries” by creating “a pipeline of experienced professional in this growing field. Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for performers working in hyper-exposed scenes.”
Speaking from personal experience, she said that she knows first-hand how valuable this role is. “Our industry has changed exponentially in the last 5-7 years. Scenes of intimacy are everywhere and more explicit than ever. Thirty-six years ago, when I started in this business, there were no such things as intimacy coordinators. I experienced directors asking me to take my shirt off in auditions to see my breast size; to having men touch me in ways that were unacceptable and not necessary to the production. As professionals, we often feel that we are out there alone, because no one wants to stand out as a complainer and be seen as someone who is rocking the boat.”
Thirty years ago, in her breakout role on 90210, she said that “We had to fend for ourselves without any real guidance or support.” But during last year’s reboot of the show, she said, “the director asked us if we would like an intimacy coordinator for the intimate scenes we were shooting. And that was amazing because it was freeing just to know that there was an option of support available; that we could talk about boundaries and expectations. And having an intimacy coordinator allows an individual to feel safe, and therefore more creative. And it makes the production even stronger.”
“But we are challenged with the fact that there are not enough intimacy coordinators, so we have made a commitment, as an institution, that we will help to expand and standardize a role that is growing. The accreditation and registry is the latest milestone in our years’ long collaboration with leaders and professionals in the intimacy coordinator community.”
David White, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director, said that “This is the latest development in our ongoing effort to eliminate sexual harassment in the entertainment industry through innovative technology improvements, strategic partnerships, raising awareness of these issues, and expanding contract and legislative protections. This effort reflects a long collaboration with the leaders and working professionals in the intimacy coordinator community. We could not be more pleased to add this contribution to the work being done by colleagues and allies across the industry to address this issue.”
“As the use of intimacy coordinators continues to rapidly grow, we believe that establishing these standards will help to safely expand the profession and provide support and security to actors as they practice their craft,” said Amanda Blumenthal, founder of Intimacy Professionals Association.
“The steps we are taking today are to amplify and unite the working professionals in the field of intimacy coordination,” said Alicia Rodis, who serves as HBO’s in-house intimacy coordinator. “We are proud to be working with SAG-AFTRA on continuing to set the standard of excellence for this rapidly expanding industry. The continued safety of performers on set is our number one priority.”
SAG-AFTRA noted that other efforts it’s taken to combat sexual harassment in the workplace include:
• Putting a stop to improper private meetings and interviews in hotel rooms and personal residences.
• Negotiating stronger provisions into its major contracts with studio and network producers that guarantee members significant rights and protections in intimate and highly exposed scenes.
• Issuing a code of conduct to prevent harassment and assault in the industry.
• Building internal and external programs and retraining its staff to provide support to survivors who wish to report an incident or who need referrals to therapeutic resources or other assistance.
“Giving our members the ability to report sexual harassment, assault or discrimination is not new,” noted Morgan Tennant, the union’s executive director of Customer Experience and co-lead on the platform’s development team. During a walk-through with reporters last week, she pointed out features of the new reporting site that includes frequently asked questions about what constitutes sexual harassment and what the union can do about it.
Whether it would have stopped Harvey Weinstein, however, is unclear. His misconduct was never reported to the union, and only became public after his victims were contacted by reporters at The New York Times. Numerous other Hollywood abusers have also been exposed by the media.
“SAG-AFTRA is here to provide options for filing a report; to provide empathetic and trauma-informed assistance throughout the complaints process,” Tennant told reporters. “It’s also important to understand that we can provide supportive resources for self-care, legal assistance and social services, and we can provide information about outside reporting options, including government agencies.”
She noted, however, that “just as important as it is to understand what SAG-AFTRA can do, is to understand what is not in our jurisdiction. We cannot serve as law enforcement, or be your legal representation. We cannot prepare or file reports for other signatories or employers; we do not control or enforce the complaint process of other unions, and we of course cannot dictate the outcome.”
The union can, however, take action, if the accuser wishes, by filing a formal complaint with the harasser’s employer for violating the non-discrimination clause of its contracts.
Grace Allen, the policy compliance manager at the SAG-AFTRA’s Equity & Inclusion department – and who serves as the primary advocate for those filing reports of sexual harassment – said that she and her team will “work to ensure that this reporting process supports the needs of the user, while operating through a lens of empathy and empowerment. From the moment a user chooses to share their story, and throughout their journey that follows, my team and I are there offering guidance, support and a safe space as they process their experiences.”
SAG-AFTRA officials said that the union is also working with the Anita Hill-led Hollywood Commission, which is also developing a platform to track repeat offenders of sexual harassment and racial bias.