Harvey Weinstein’s ex assistant today revealed she was told she would be ‘utterly crushed’ if she told the police the movie mogul allegedly raped her colleague.
Zelda Perkins told MPs she and her colleague quit production giant Miramax over the alleged sexual assault in 1998.
She later went to lawyers and wanted to alert the police to the attempted rape but was advised she would be ‘utterly crushed’ in court.
Instead the two women made him sign a legal agreement that required him to seek therapy and mend his ways.
But the non disclosure agreement was effectively a gagging order which stopped them going public with the allegation, the committee was told.
She told MPs the gagging order was so strict that her friend did not even tell her counsellor that with was Weinstein who allegedly raped her.
Zelda Perkins (pictured today) told MPs today she and her colleague quit production giant Miramax over the alleged sexual assault in 1998
Giving evidence to the women and equalities select committee this morning, Ms Perkins said she quit the company after her friend and colleague told her about the assault.
She said: ‘He sexually assaulted and attempted to rape a colleague of mine, a colleague who had recently been employed.
‘She had only been with the company a month and she had only met him once.
What is a non disclosure agreement and why are they controversial?
Parliament’s women and equalities committee, headed by Tory MP Maria Miller (pictured), is investigating how non disclosure agreements work and whether they are being misused (file pic)
Non-Disclosure Agreements is a catch-all term for agreements that include confidentiality clauses – sometimes referred to as gagging clauses.
They are meant to be used to stop confidential information like trade secrets leaking out when someone leaves a company or organisation.
But they have sparked a storm of criticism as employers have often used them to cover up improper conduct and gag their former employees.
They have often been used by employed to gag those who make allegations of sexual harassment.
They have also been used to cover up improper, discriminatory or even illegal behaviour.
Parliament’s women and equalities committee, headed by Tory MP Maria Miller, is investigating how they work and whether they are being misused.
‘When somebody comes to you saying that’s happened there is not much choice about what you can do.’
She wanted to go to the police but was strongly advised against it by her lawyers, she told the committee.
Ms Perkins said: ‘First because the incident did not happen in the UK – it was not under UK jurisdiction.
‘Secondly because of the disparity of power between the two parties, and that as we had no physical proof if we did go to the police in the UK or tried to take it to court we would be utterly crushed.’
As part of a settlement, Ms Perkins signed a non-disclosure agreement.
It kept her silent, but also committed Weinstein to attend therapy for three years.
But today she told MPs that the deal was ‘morally lacking agreement on every level’ which banned the women from being able to talk freely about their experience to anyone – including family, friends and even healthcare professionals.
She said: ‘But also to any medical practitioner any legal representative….we can speak to those people as long as they sign their own non disclosure agreement before they can enter a conversation with us.
‘But we were still under pressure not to name anybody in connection with any of the events.
‘If she needed to see a doctor…..she sought counselling but never ever discussed the events because she was so afraid of the agreement she felt she was not allowed to.’
Ms Perkins was giving evidence to a select committee which is investigating the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in preventing people from speaking out about abuse.
She said that she bottled up her experience and did not tell anyone about it as she feared Mr Weinstein’s lawyers would come after her.
Zelda Perkins (pictured left in November 2017) quit Weinstein’s (right, in 2015) film company in 1998, along with a colleague who accused the movie mogul of trying to rape her
She told MPs: ‘I was told clearly it was a very broad agreement and basically I just couldn’t ever say anything about anything to anybody and just the safest thing was to erase the entire last four years of my life pretty much from my memory.
‘At no point was it made clear to me that it was unenforceable or could potentially be unenforceable.’
The legal agreement required Miramax to tell to its then-owner, the Walt Disney Company about the claims or to fire Weinstein if he made any more payouts over alleged wrongdoing.
Ms Perkins said her hope was to ‘create protection for people in the future.’
Under the terms of the agreement, Perkins chose the therapist Weinstein was to consult.
Weinstein and Georgina Chapman attend the amfAR Gala Cannes 2017 at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 25
But Ms Perkins said she does not know whether he ever went to the sessions.
In a separate interview yesterday, she said: ‘I have no idea if any of the obligations were upheld.’
She said that a year after she left the company she ran into Weinstein at the Cannes Film Festival, and ‘he told me that everything I had done was pointless.’
NDAs are common in the corporate world, but Ms Perkins says her experience shows they can be used to let perpetrators get away with wrongdoing while silencing their victims.
The agreement Ms Perkins signed kept her quiet about Weinstein’s behavior for almost 20 years.
He continued to be one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers until last fall, when women – including Hollywood stars – publicly accused him of groping, exposing himself to them or forcing them into unwanted sex.
Weinstein has since been fired by the company he co-founded and expelled by Hollywood’s film academy. Police in the U.S. and Britain are investigating multiple claims of sexual assault.
Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
Ms Perkins was in her early 20s and says he had barely heard of Weinstein when she began working for his then-company, Miramax, in London.
Recalling her experience, she said: ‘Everybody knew that he had a roving eye and he pushed it with women.’
He also had a fearsome temper, and didn’t respect usual office boundaries, sometimes walking around naked or in his underwear, she added.
She said: ‘I was 22 and I was like, ‘OK, this is what it must be like in the big league,” Perkins said. ‘This guy is really important – he doesn’t have time to wear his trousers.’
Weinstein and Perkins at the Cannes Film Festival amFAR dinner on May 21, 1998
Ms Perkins says she wasn’t aware of any allegations of sexual assault until a younger colleague came to her in distress during the 1998 Venice Film Festival and said Weinstein had tried to rape her.
The pair flew back to England and went to lawyers, ‘with the presumption that we were going to prosecute him in court.’
Told they could not prosecute in England because the alleged crime took place in Italy, the two women ended up negotiating an agreement that saw each receive 125,000 pounds (now $177,000).
While Ms Perkins managed to get the agreement to impose conditions on Weinstein, she said the negotiating process ‘was humiliating and degrading. I was made to feel like I was in the wrong for trying to expose his behavior.’
She was told she would be held responsible if her family or friends disclosed details of Weinstein’s behavior.
She couldn’t see a therapist unless the therapist also signed a non-disclosure agreement. Perkins was not even allowed to have a copy of the agreement she had signed.
Perkins said the experience left her ‘trapped in a vortex of fear.’
After a couple of job interviews in Britain where people ‘presumed that I’d been his girlfriend,’ Perkins she left Britain for several years. She now works as a theater producer in the U.K.
‘I think I’m only just beginning to realize what it stole from me,’ Perkins said of her experience with Weinstein – and his lawyers. ‘It stole my belief and my confidence in myself and in society.’