Zelda Perkins, former assistant to disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, is the first of Weinstein’s accusers to break a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to reveal further details about the alleged sexual harassment she endured.
The NDA is said to have been written up in October 1998, and in Perkins’ case, she claims to have shared a £250,000 settlement with another woman, who also alleges she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein.
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In an interview with The Financial Times, Perkins revealed that she violated the NDA to expose the supposed legal secrecy of Weinstein, The Weinstein Company, Miramax and the companies’ legal teams. She also referenced the now-dozens of women who claim to have suffered at the hands of Weinstein, and she doesn’t want that suffering to be in vain.
Perkins is also aware that she may yet still face legal ramifications for breaking the NDA.
“I want to publicly break my non-disclosure agreement,” she told the FT. “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.”
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Perkins was one of the original Weinstein accusers in the bombshell New York Times article, but due to the NDA she couldn’t reveal any details of her specific case.
Now “free” to tell her story, Perkins alleges that Weinstein repeatedly sexually harassed her while working for Miramax out of the London office. She claims the first incident took place when Weinstein allegedly asked her to give him a massage while he was wearing only his underwear (a disturbingly similar allegation of many other women in this case). She says she declined.
So far, at least 52 women have made accusations, and their tales each have elements in common. Weinstein, through his representative, has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex.
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“This was his behaviour on every occasion I was alone with him,” she said. “I often had to wake him up in the hotel in the mornings and he would try to pull me into bed.”
When a colleague was allegedly assaulted in 1998, Perkins says she reached her breaking point, and the pair sought legal counsel.
“She was white as a sheet and shaking and in a very bad emotional state,” said Perkins. “She told me something terrible had happened. She was in shock and crying and finding it very hard to talk. I was furious, deeply upset and very shocked. I said, ‘We need to go to the police’ … but she was too distressed.”
They were advised by lawyers to seek a settlement claim, and the negotiation began shortly afterwards.
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Her signed NDA contains many clauses, which Perkins believes were designed to control her future behaviour. In her FT interview, she also alludes to Weinstein’s legal team and its function as a protective web around him so he could avoid consequences for his alleged behaviour.
One such clause was written in case she was asked to provide testimony about Weinstein or his business. If that hypothetical situation arose and “any criminal legal process” involving Weinstein or Miramax required her to give evidence, she would have to give 48 hours’ notice to a Weinstein lawyer “before making any disclosure.”
She claims she spent days being interrogated at the offices of Weinstein’s London lawyers — including a 12-hour Q&A session — in order to compose the NDA.
“I was pretty broken after the negotiation process,” she said. “I want to call into question the legitimacy of agreements where the inequality of power is so stark and relies on money rather than morality.”
Perkins admits she wasn’t allowed to keep a copy of her NDA, as part of the agreement. She only has possession of a few pages, which were viewed by the FT.
She originally had grander plans to bring down Weinstein by publicly exposing his behaviour, but the lawyers were “reluctant.”
“They said words to the effect of, ‘They are not going to take your word against his with no evidence,'” she recalled. “I was very upset because the whole point was that we had to stop him by exposing his behaviour. I was warned that he and his lawyers would try to destroy my credibility if I went to court. They told me he would try to destroy me and my family.”
The FT reports that Weinstein, through a representative, denied Perkins’ accusations.
“The FT did not provide the identity of any individuals making these assertions,” said the spokesperson. “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”
Weinstein is currently the subject of criminal investigations in Los Angeles, New York City and in the U.K.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.