The former assistant to disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein said nondisclosure agreement laws need to be changed after she broke an agreement promising not to discuss sexual assault allegations against her ex-boss.
Perkins told BBC Newsnight that she left her job with Weinstein’s Miramax Films in the U.K. after a co-worker said Weinstein tried to rape her, a charge the former producer has denied.
“She was shaking, very distressed, and clearly in shock,” Perkins said of her colleague. “She didn’t want anybody to know and was absolutely terrified of the consequences. I spoke with her and tried to calm her down before confronting Harvey face to face.”
In October, Perkins broke the nondisclosure agreement she signed in 1998 that barred her from from speaking about allegations she made against Weinstein at the time. Those allegations included Weinstein’s multiple attempts to pull her into bed with him and his requests for her to be in his room while he bathed, she told the Financial Times.
“I want to publicly break my nondisclosure agreement,” she told the publication. “Unless somebody does this there won’t be a debate about how egregious these agreements are and the amount of duress that victims are put under. My entire world fell in because I thought the law was there to protect those who abided by it. I discovered that it had nothing to do with right and wrong and everything to do with money and power.”
Perkins, who was 24 at the time of signing the agreement, said lawyers encouraged her to do so because the women in question had no physical evidence and had not gone to police.
“However, they were saying, ‘You will get dragged backwards, forwards and sideways through the courts,” she told BBC. “As will your family, as will your friends, as will anybody who knows anything about you. You haven’t got a chance. You will be destroyed.’”
She said she was paid $164,000 for her silence, which she may have to pay back as she opens herself up to legal trouble.
“I understand nondisclosure agreements have a place in society for both sides,” Perkins told Newsnight. “But it’s really important that legislation is changed around how these agreements are regulated. You cannot have a legal document that protects a criminal.”
On Monday, Democratic House members announced two new bills that would take aim at nondisclosure agreements by requiring companies to report all court settlements involving sexual harassment, assault and discrimination.
Perkins said she hopes the U.K. Parliament will begin to discuss the issue.
“You can’t change the Harvey Weinsteins of the world,” she said. “There are always going to be people who follow the darker side of their character, but if the rules and the laws that we have to protect ourselves enable that, then there’s no point in having them.”