WARNING: This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering to survivors.
On March 11 2020, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes in New York City.
The 67-year-old movie producer, who is now likely to live out the rest of his life in a jail cell, was accused by several women of sexual misconduct.
Rowena Chiu, Weinstein’s former assistant, was one of the 24 women who bravely told her story that ultimately led to his arrest and has now broken an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement — a contract through which the parties agree not to disclose information covered by the agreement — to talk about the alleged sexual assault.
In an interview with US outlet Variety, Chiu (alongside her former colleague Zelda Perkins) explained that Weinstein had “bigger problems” than her breaking her NDA.
“He could sue me for every single interview I’ve ever done for breaking my NDA, but in practice, he’s probably not going to,” she said.
Chiu said there was a “risk” to breaking such an agreement and is now working towards changing the legislation with Perkins, regarding NDA’s in the UK where they worked for Weinstein at Miramax.
“For me, this has always been less about Harvey Weinstein or any one man’s behaviour — it has been about the system that enables this behaviour,” Perkins said during the same interview.
“Power is a privilege. Your behaviour should become more impeccable with power; not less impeccable.”
According to the two women, they were bound to the legal document for over 20-years which “locked” them out of “any type of emotional support whatsoever.”
As a result of this, Chiu tried to end her life on two separate occasions.
“NDAs should be banned as a tool to cover up sexual harassment, unequivocally,” Chiu said of the current laws surrounding NDAs.
“If you rape someone, that’s a reportable crime. To say, ‘I’m going to have you sign a legal document so that you can’t go to the police or lawyers to discuss what happened to you,’ that’s just plain wrong.”
Chiu also revealed that Weinstein and his lawyers tried to instil fear into her by asking for the names and addresses of her friends and family — something which made her even more tight-lipped at the time as to not put them in danger.
“I thought Harvey would hire people to go around to my boyfriend’s apartment or my poor parents and there would be black vans sitting outside their home,” she said.
Chiu and Perkins are now coming forward to help prevent other women and men from experiencing what they allegedly went through.
“This is just the beginning of what we hope to see as a long-term societal, cultural change,” Chiu said.
Weinstein denies any sexual misconduct towards the women and in a statement made by his party to Variety, they said that he had “always respected Ms Chiu and treated her as a close and trusted friend.”
“He only has feelings of fondness for her, and ultimately sadness for how her memories of him appeared to have manifested to what we hear today. He always hopes for her best and still wishes her only joy and happiness,” the statement read.
Chiu and Perkins alleged that Weinstein had assaulted them while they worked at Miramax in 1998.
According to their story, Chiu and Perkins repeatedly attempted to report Weinstein’s pattern of abusive behaviour but were “ignored and dismissed”. They were then forced to sign the 30-page non-disclosure agreement.
“The negotiations were conducted under conditions of extreme duress,” Chiu wrote in an Op-Ed in The Times.
“We were once kept at the office overnight, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., escorted to the bathroom, provided with the barest minimum of food and drink and not permitted pen and paper to keep notes. We were not even allowed to keep a copy of this most egregious of agreements: We had signed our lives away in a complex 30-page document that we could not refer to.”