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Women in Film Launching Sexual Harassment Help Line, Legal Aid Service

Citing Hollywood’s growing sexual abuse scandal, Women in Film is starting a sexual harassment help line, launching on Dec. 1, and a pro-bono legal aid service.

Founding partner WME has provided seed funding to build and staff the help line. Women in Film said Friday that its Sexual Harassment Help Line and Pro-Bono legal aid panel will be integrated programs to refer men and women in need of assistance to other survivors, designated mental health counselors, law enforcement professionals, and civil and criminal lawyers and litigators. The help line will also serve as a crisis center and centralized information source.

Bonnie Eskenazi, a partner at Greenberg Glusker, is assembling the panel of attorneys, including employment, labor, contractual, and civil rights professionals.

“This plan provides victims of sexual harassment with certain resources to take actions consistent with their level of comfort, and gives the victim control over how to address the violation and when,” she said. “It also decreases concerns about legal costs.”

Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film said, “Our phones have been ringing off the hook since these harassment stories began to break. We are hearing that victims feel isolated, that there is nowhere safe to go to tell their stories, that they believe they must keep their experiences silent or they will be sued or black-balled and that they feel helpless, fearing the legal costs of trying to do anything about what has happened to them. The Help Line will be staffed by trained experts to address these concerns, and all information will be kept strictly confidential.”

Los Angeles District Attorney Sharon Lacey announced Thursday that she had created a task force of veteran prosecutors to deal with sexual abuse crimes in the entertainment industry.

Showbusiness has been rocked over the past month by multiple accusations of sexual abuse against high-profile figures including Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Louis C.K., and more. The first accusations emerged on Oct. 5 against Weinstein.

WIF president Cathy Schulman said, “I’m sad that we are in a place where the formation of a crisis and relief center for victims of sexual harassment and sex crimes is necessary, but I have no doubt that Women In Film’s deep familiarity with the business and behavior of our community, position as an independent and not-for-profit entity not aligned with any particular studio, agency, or company, institutional knowledge of discrimination and the social science surrounding change models, as well as our deep devotion to our members and friends, will enable the Help Line and legal aid panel to move the national conversation about workplace harassment in a positive and curative direction.”

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