Harvey Weinstein allegations open floodgates for harassment stories

What began as a New York Times investigative report into harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein has spiralled into further accusations and a larger debate about workplace harassment.

A Fox News reporter is the latest woman accusing the renowned film producer of sexual misconduct. Lauren Sivan told the Huffington Post Friday that Weinstein cornered her at a restaurant a decade ago — when she was a local journalist in New York — exposing and subsequently gratifying himself in front of her.

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Television reporter Lauren Sivan attends the 66th Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on July 26, 2014 in North Hollywood, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The fallout has prompted U.S. morning show TV host Mika Brzezinski to say she “can’t go forward” with a lucrative Weinstein book deal unless the mogul resigns.

And Weinstein’s prominent legal adviser, Lisa Bloom, has resigned, announcing Saturday she’s no longer helping him with his case despite initially rushing to his defence.

The claims against Hollywood’s formerly revered honcho, known for churning out Oscar-winning films such as Shakespeare in Love, The King’s Speech and The Artist, are also prompting women to speak out about their own experiences with workplace harassment.

Personal stories emerge

“That is an indicator to people in power that we are not going to take that, or we’re starting to recognize it,” Ontario-based writer Anne T. Donahue told CBC News.

Donahue put out a Twitter call earlier this week for women to share their personal stories about being harassed on the job: “When did you meet YOUR Harvey Weinstein?” 

She received thousands of responses and re-tweets, including one from Oscar-winning Room actress Brie Larson. 

Larson is one of a handful of Hollywood voices contributing to the discussion.

‘Intimidating Hollywood legend’

Documentary filmmaker and actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom wrote an article in the Huffington Post Friday about her own experiences with Weinstein, calling the initial New York Times report “extremely disturbing, but not all that shocking.”

“I was naive, new to the industry, and didn’t know how to deal with his aggressive advances ― work invitations with a friend late-night at The Toronto Film Festival, and later an invitation to meet with him about a role in the Peninsula Hotel, where staff were present and then all of a sudden disappeared like clockwork, leaving me alone with this extremely powerful and intimidating Hollywood legend.”

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Documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom shared her own experience with Weinstein in a column for the Huffington Post. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

The film executive, who found widespread success with films such as Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and more recently, Lion, is on “indefinite leave” from the Weinstein Company. pending an internal investigation.

Weinstein released a statement earlier this week, apologizing for his behaviour which “has caused a lot of pain.” His legal team also has said the initial New York Times story was “saturated with false and defamatory statements.”

Throughout his career, Weinstein’s company has worked with countless A-listers, from Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) to Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady). Both won Oscars for their Weinstein films. Streep even referred to him in a 2012 acceptance speech as “God.”

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During her 2012 Golden Globes acceptance speech for the Weinstein Co’s The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep joked about Harvey Weinstein being ‘God.’ His reputation and power might help explain how difficult it was for women to come forward about claims of sexual harassment. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC via Getty Images)

Strength in numbers

It might explain why challenges to that reputation took so long to surface.

“For those asking why I waited?” Sivan tweeted Saturday. “YOU try telling that story 10yrs ago. Only possible now because of women with bigger names far braver than me.”

In turn, it might make others less fearful as well.

‘Communication, sharing; that’s a step because it takes away the stigma and the stigma is used to keep people down’–  Anne T. Donahue, Canadian writer

“Communication, sharing; that’s a step because it takes away the stigma and the stigma is used to keep people down,” said Donahue.

Kathy Spillar, executive director of the U.S. Feminist Majority Foundation, told the Associated Press that strength in numbers could encourage more women to come forward in other cases. In addition to Weinstein, there have been high-profile allegations against Fox News’s former host Bill O’Reilly and the late executive Roger Ailes as well as against Bill Cosby, showing how common misconduct can be.

“Silence is the enemy of justice, and these powerful men know that,” Spillar said. “I think this is going to start an avalanche, I really do. And we all know this behaviour is not limited to Cosby, Ailes, O’Reilly and Weinstein.”

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