Hollywood Women Launch Legal Defense Fund for Sexual Harassment in Low-Wage Workplaces
Over 300 women who work in film, television, and theater have launched a $13 million legal defense fund dedicated to combating sexual harassment and assault in low-wage workplaces. The fund was announced in an open letter published on Monday as a full-page ad in The New York Times and the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión. Signatories include actresses America Ferrera, Rashida Jones, Ashley Judd, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, Kerry Washington, and Reese Witherspoon, as well as showrunners Shonda Rhimes and Jill Soloway.
The letter acknowledges the privilege of Hollywood women, who have seen their own industry reckon with harassment in recent months, and expresses solidarity with workers who lack the resources to hold perpetrators accountable. It’s a response to an open letter published in November by Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, a female farmworkers advocacy group representing around 700,000 women, that expressed solidarity with women in the entertainment industry.
“We want all survivors of sexual harassment, everywhere, to be heard, to be believed, and to know that accountability is possible,” the new letter reads. “We also want all victims and survivors to be able to access justice and support for the wrongdoing they have endured.”
The legal fund is just one focus of a wider initiative called Times Up, reportedly started by four female agents at CAA. The leaderless organization is also developing legislation to penalize companies who tolerate harassment and use non-disclosure agreements to silence survivors, and demanding that entertainment companies have equal numbers of male and female-identifying executives by 2020.
“We just reached this conclusion in our heads that, damn it, everything is possible,” Rhimes told the Times. “Why shouldn’t it be?”