A former assistant of disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein broke a non-disclosure agreement on Tuesday, detailing new allegations and calling out the complicity of the legal system in keeping him protected for so long.
In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Zelda Perkins, who worked for Weinstein’s Miramax Films in London in the ’90s, described Weinstein as a “master manipulator” and a “repulsive monster.”
Before taking the job, Perkins says she was warned by another woman about Weinstein reputation and given some sage advice:
“Always sit in an armchair, don’t sit in a sofa next to him, and always keep your puffy jacket on.”
Even so, Perkins also indicated that, in the beginning, it seemed like his behavior with women was something that had been normalized and could be managed:
“Everybody went to his hotel,” said Perkins. “It was where he did business. In his suite, not his bedroom.”
She described a steady stream of women with whom Weinstein was clearly intimate. Perkins says she assumed the relationships were consensual, though she admitted that some woman seemed reluctant to come and meet with him.
Eventually, she says, he began making sexual advances at her.
“Everything you’ve read I’ve had to experience at one point or another,” says Perkins.
Things came to a head in the late ’90s at the Venice Film Festival when a distraught colleague came to Perkins alleging that Weinstein had just attempted to rape her. She immediately confronted the producer who denied that anything had happened.
In response to the BBC interview, a Weinstein rep told Time in a statement that the producer, “categorically denies engaging in any non-consensual conduct or alleged threatening behavior.”
After the alleged incident, Perkins says she turned to a woman in a senior position at Miramax and was told she should get a lawyer.
“I thought we would go to criminal proceedings and that we would go to court and he would be punished,” says Perkins. “The lawyers made it clear we didn’t have very many options.”
She says her legal team explained that the word of two 20-somethings versus Harvey Weinstein, Miramax, and Disney wouldn’t count for much.
“This was where my real trauma and abuse started,” said Perkins. “I could deal with Harvey. What I couldn’t deal with, what I had no equipment for, was the legal system.”
She was eventually convinced that signing a non-disclosure agreement worth $125,000 was her only option.
Listening to Perkins talk about the ordeal, it’s clear that it wasn’t Weinstein who destroyed her; rather, the real damage came in being silenced afterward.
“It was the entire system, and the system essentially protected Harvey in this case,” says Perkins. “I can guarantee you it protects 100 other people like that because if you have the power and the money to create agreements that cover up essentially a very serious in this case crime — criminal action — I dread to imagine what other things are being covered up.”
The non-disclosure agreement was a favorite tool of Weinstein and his legal team, and the term is all but ubiquitous in the sexual misconduct narratives that have come avalanching out in recent months.
“I’m not stupid, I understand that non-disclosure agreements have a place in society — and for both sides,” says Perkins. “But it’s really important that something is changed around how these agreements are regulated. You cannot have a legal document that protects a criminal.”
Perkins did not speak about the potential repercussions for ignoring her non-disclosure agreement, but what happens next could set a precedent guiding other women bound by such agreements.
(Photo by Getty)