Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO, CommunicationsMatchTM
It’s pretty hot right now under the klieg light of public condemnation for “showbiz” personalities Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and a growing number of others.
It’s fitting that this horror show is taking place right before Halloween. For some, it’s likely a rubber-necking moment… a car crash with rich and famous protagonists getting what they deserve.
But wait a moment. Should we really be lumping in Bill O’Reilly in the showbiz category or should he be in the “corporate” hall of shame of harassment settlements.
Hold on… the klieg light is shifting… next stop corporations.
Because sexual harassment and abuse is not just a show biz thing. It’s a man thing. It’s what happens when powerful people think they can get away with it… wherever they are, whatever the industry…
Because so many have, and here’s the inconvenient truth, highlighted by the New York Times’ Mediator column… nondisclosure agreements have put off the day of reckoning for those accused of sexual harassment.
These agreements create perverse outcomes.
The ability of the wealthy to silence an accuser and to abuse again.
The motivation for lawyers and victims to receive millions of dollars to be quiet and allow these behaviors to continue.
There are many who have been complicit. We need to look beyond the enablers of Harvey Weinstein and at lawyers and others counting on the silence of victims.
The power of the #MeToo movement is that women are less afraid to tell their stories.
Here’s the most perverse aspect of these settlements… they are a tool primarily available for the wealthy and powerful or those close to them.
They reinforce a two-tier legal system. The working and middle-class who have little choice by to endure harassment, leave companies or report it to the authorities. And those with the leverage to secure payouts that ordinary people could not begin to imagine.
No one should be subject to sexual or any other form of harassment or assault.
Those who perpetrate these crimes need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
We need to create ways to better protect victims’ privacy, encourage prosecutions and ensure that the accused receive a fair trial.
The media is right to focus on nondisclosure agreements – but also needs to look below the surface at the distortions and unfairness for the millions of women (and sometimes men) for whom the balance of power and justice is stacked against them.
This Halloween many communicators will likely be afraid. Very afraid that it might be their companies’ turn in the spotlight, because women are less scared of sharing their experiences.