Sexual harassment has been a persistent issue in the entertainment industry for many years, particularly in Los Angeles and Hollywood. This industry is marked by gender inequalities, a high concentration of young and impressionable aspiring talent, and a range of practices and behaviors that foster an environment of harassment and abuse. However, understanding workplace sexual harassment in the entertainment industry is the first step in protecting yourself.
Why Sexual Harassment is Rampant in the Entertainment Industry
Sexual harassment in the entertainment industry can take two main forms: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo, or “this for that” sexual harassment, is prevalent in this industry due to an imbalance of power. Managers, agents, directors, and other higher-ups often leverage their positions to offer job seekers successful careers in exchange for sexual favors. Additionally, hostile work environments are created through gender biases in a male-dominated field.
Sexual harassment persists in the entertainment industry because women are often stereotyped as sex objects, while youths in the industry are frequently taken advantage of by older and more experienced individuals. Studies have shown that microaggressions and nonconsensual or coerced sexual touching have been normalized in this industry. Sexual harassment and assault pervade all aspects of the entertainment industry, from auditions to large-scale projects.
According to a survey by the International Labour Organization, people in positions of power (52 percent) and coworkers (50 percent) are the two main culprits of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. Victims in the industry commonly report sexually suggestive or gender-biased language (78 percent), sexual advances or propositions (62 percent), and requests for sexual favors to get a job or employment benefits (43 percent). “Physical touching, groping and sexual assault” is in fourth place at 37 percent.
What are some red flags I should be aware of?
To protect yourself from sexual harassment and the casting couch, it is important to know how to identify red flags. The two main types of sexual harassment are quid pro quo harassment and hostile workplace harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment involves a demand for sexual favors in exchange for something, such as a promotion, special treatment, or a job opportunity. This may be presented as a direct request or as a threat. Hostile workplace harassment involves any unwelcome conduct that creates an intimidating or offensive professional environment, such as inappropriate touching or suggestive comments.
To identify red flags, pay attention to situations where professional meetings are held outside of a professional environment, such as auditions in apartments or hotel rooms. This is a clear violation of industry guidelines, and the industry is actively working to prohibit it. In April 2018, SAG-AFTRA announced a push for a ban on auditions in high-risk locations like hotel rooms and residences.
Overall, it is important to trust your instincts and speak up if you feel uncomfortable or witness inappropriate behavior. Everyone deserves a safe and respectful working environment, and it is up to all of us to help create and maintain that.
What is the “casting couch” and why should I avoid it?
The term “casting couch” has a long history and a terrible reputation in the entertainment industry. It refers to the practice of demanding sexual favors in exchange for career advancement, particularly in the casting process. This practice, also known as “quid pro quo harassment,” has been around for almost a century and continues to be a problem today.
Fortunately, there have been efforts to address this issue. California lawmakers are currently working on revising a sexual harassment law to make it easier for victims to file complaints. This would include addressing professional relationships where victims are harassed while seeking advice, treatment, or in mentoring relationships.
According to Jessica Stender, senior counsel at Equal Rights Advocates, the most important part of the bill is that it “gives people a clear avenue for redress if they are harassed.” This means that victims would have a way to seek justice, and potential perpetrators would be aware that this behavior is unlawful and will not be tolerated.
What to Do if You Suffer Workplace Sexual Harassment in the Entertainment Industry
If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and hold the perpetrator accountable:
Write down what happened: Create a detailed account of the harassment or abuse, including the name of the abuser and any witnesses. Record the time, date, and location of the incident.
Seek medical attention: If you were sexually assaulted, seek medical attention within 72 hours to obtain a sexual assault forensic exam. This may provide DNA evidence to help identify the perpetrator.
Report to Human Resources: File an official sexual harassment or assault claim with your employer’s Human Resources Department. Write down the name of the person you spoke to and their response to your allegation.
File a complaint with the EEOC: If your employer fails to investigate your complaint or take appropriate action, file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They can help you take legal action against your employer.
Consult with a sexual harassment attorney: Contact an experienced sexual harassment lawyer for guidance on your legal options and how to fight for justice.
Prioritize your safety and well-being: Get to a safe place and tell someone you trust about the incident. If you believe you or someone else is in imminent danger, contact the police. Take time to comprehend and cope with the trauma before taking any further action.
Will reporting it affect my career? What else should I consider?
Reporting sexual harassment and abuse can be a difficult decision, and many victims fear that it will negatively impact their careers. Unfortunately, there have been cases where victims have lost roles or have been blacklisted within their industry for rejecting advances or reporting harassment.
However, it is important to remember that reporting harassment is a personal choice and that the victim’s safety and well-being should come first. It is also important to know that there are laws in place to protect victims of sexual harassment and that reporting it is a legally protected activity.
If you do choose to report harassment, it is important to find a safe and supportive environment to do so. This could be a trusted friend, a support group, a legal counsel, or law enforcement. It is also important to document any incidents of harassment, including dates, times, locations, and details of the incidents.
In some cases, employers may have policies in place to address harassment and provide support to victims. It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with your company’s policies and procedures for reporting harassment.
Ultimately, the decision to report harassment is a personal one, and victims should prioritize their own safety and well-being.
Lisa Rinna’s Casting Couch Horror Story – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lisa-rinnas-casting-couch_n_757713
Who can I call on for support? What are resources I should know about?
There are many resources available for people who have experienced sexual harassment or assault in the entertainment industry. Here are some organizations and hotlines that offer support:
- RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673
- Planned Parenthood Sexual Assault Hotline: 877-212-2323
- Women in Film Sexual Harassment Help Line: 323-545-0333
- Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund (for workplace sexual harassment or related retaliation cases)
- Equity Helpdesk (for actors working in the UK)
- United Nations (for reporting incidents of harassment or assault)
Resources for U.K. Actors Who Have Experienced Harassment or Assault
- UK Police: Contact Information
- Rape Crisis England & Wales: Guidance
- Rape Crisis Scotland: Guidance
- Safeline: Rape and Sexual Abuse Victim Support
- Citizen’s Advice Bureau: Guidance on Sexual Harassment
- United Nations: Guide to Sexual Harassment
- Equity: Helpdesk Numbers and Statement on Sexual Harassment
In addition to these resources, it’s important to reach out to trusted friends, family members, or allies for support. You can also consider speaking with a therapist or other mental health professional who is experienced in working with survivors of sexual trauma. Remember that you are not alone, and there are people and organizations that are dedicated to helping survivors of sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry.