We are Silence Breakers that helped spark a worldwide #MeToo movement that resulted in the conviction of Harvey Weinstein. We're here to talk to you about Voices in Action, a nonprofit creating a platform to privately document assaults and help ma...
We're out of time but we'll try to check back and answer questions as we can. Thank you for an excellent two hours. We can't make progress without help - please help us get there. Every donation of any size helps. https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/beprovoice
Hi Reddit, Jessica Barth here with a group of the 100+ Silence Breakers.
With me today are:
Mira Sorvino Caitlin Dulaney Pamela Guest Lou Godbold Sarah Scott Katherine Kendall Melissa Sagemiller Sarah Anne Masse
We are here to talk to you about Voices In Action's new campaign: Be ProVoice. We believe it shouldn’t take being brave to report sexual assault. It should be as ordinary as reporting a stolen car or any other crime.
I created VIA to make this a reality and to use technology to build a global documenting platform to make sure serial predators are identified and caught faster.
We are here to answer your question about our experiences, our careers, and why we believe everyone should Be ProVoice. We're also raising money for Voices in Action to build this next phase of so we can change the culture in Hollywood, in Corporate America, in our homes and so we can help survivors all over the globe. You can find out more about that on our GoFundMe Page.
We're excited to be here. Ask Us Anything!
Katherine Kendall: I don’t think we ever said “believe all women” I don’t think that was ever a #MeToo phrase. I think everyone deserves to be heard. But to blindly just believe anyone is not really the mantra.
MIRA: I believe that the mantra is BELIEVE WOMEN. NOT believe ALL women. It’s being open to the possibility that someone is telling the truth. It’s the same in any crime. There is always a small percentage of a chance that someone in any crime is lying. But most of the time, they are not, so when anyone is coming forward, we should go in thinking that most likely, they are telling the truth. but that should be backed up by a thorough investigation. That doesn’t mean you believe people to an endless degree without having facts. It’s coming at it with an honest until proven dishonest view rather than the other way around. In general I would have to say that we have to give people the benefit of the doubt but not without any doubt.
LOUISE: And if you’re a prosecutor or a judge, you’re going to have to investigate the evidence. in our individual lives, when someone discloses trauma to us, it’s not for us to prosecute or make arrests. It’s up to us to offer support. 99% of the time, when someone comes to me, i have no reason to believe that they’re not telling anything but the truth. Regardless, that person who comes forward is looking to another human being to help support them through a difficult time. I’m involved in the world of child sexual assault. And it’s extremely rare that a child makes up an assault. So if a child comes to you with a story of assault, you should believe them. My orientation is always believe the person who is talking to me. Because my belief doesn’t make a bit of judicial difference. I’m offering human support.
CAITLIN: I think that there’s something to believe women and focus on women, it’s about the plight of the victims who have a story to tell for a change. And putting the focus there. And helping to give them a voice.
SARAH ANN MASSE: It’s always been believe survivors for me. It’s not about gender. People who are coming forward and putting themselves in the spotlight and at risk in their community— the risk is very slim. People need a safe space to come forward instead of shutting them down as liars. So until we shift that power imbalance, we need to shift to believing the ones who are looking for our support.
MIRA: Where we are today, we’re moving into a very good place at allowing women and survivors a space to disclose what happened to them.
But is it safe for all parties? The vast majority feel it is clearly one sided. To be marked as the supposed suspect with this movement is not safe, even if false. Its a career, social death sentence. How do you fix that?
Your concern is valid, and when a false allegation is made, it can be devastating. But mutiple studies have shown that false reports make up a very small percent of reported assaults (You can read about a few of them here: https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_False-Reporting.pdf. Whereas somewhere upwards of 60% of assaults are never reported that are very real. We have to create a culture where it is as safe to report a rape as it is to report vandalism or theft, and we have to create a way for victims to document what has happened to them so that when they do come forward, they have time-stamped, identity-verified documentation to support that allegation. That is exactly why we are raising money to develop a scalable, global version of our platform. The goal should be to protect everyone from being falsely accused while making it safer for victims to hold predators accountable.
What are your opinions on someone who wrongly accuses someone else, such as a certain case right now?
This is a personal reply since the official AMA is over, and we're not together as a group anymore, but it is never ok to accuse someone falsely. That is not a gender-specific thing. It is never ok, and when someone does that, they should be held accountable for their actions - the same as perpetrators should be held accountable when they are fairly accused. The standard should be the same no matter the gender, socioeconomic status or any other factor.
Innocent people have been ruined due to false accusations. What is your organization doing to stop this nonsense?
Quoting from another reply: Jessica: At Voices in Action, we offer the ability to privately report your experience of sexual assault. We’re not in the business of outing perpetrators or exposing anyone. We put the power and the voice in complete control of the victim and survivor. What’s critical about having that is that if you report, you receive a time stamped receipt which can serve as a valuable piece of evidence if you come forward to authorities later if or when you feel safe.
How did it feel for you to know that Harvey Weinstein did all those things, yet it took so long for his actions to be realized?
Caitlin: it’s such a great question. I was inspired to speak because when i was assaulted by Harvey weinstein, it was a long time ago, 20 years ago. And i never thought that he would be held accountable for his actions because he was so powerful. I was silent about everything that I experienced for 20 years and it affected everything in my life - my relationships and my family. And I’m just grateful that it happened. I’m very grateful that the world has changed so much. But there is some mourning that goes along with knowing what has happened in the time that you weren’t speaking. So I’m very active in helping organizations who are doing the work like Voices in Action.
Sarah Ann Masse: When I was assaulted, I was new in the industry, I had barely dipped my toe in the water and I had no idea that he had done this to other women. It was really scary for me. And I broke away from the industry because of it. So when the story broke, it was 9 years since it happened to me. So when it broke, it gave me a sense of hope. Everyone who came together, it meant that things were changing. It taught me a really important lesson that sharing stories can be really important and impactful. Even though it can be really scary... There was so much that happened. I was blacklisted and everything. But everyone in this room and everyone else who came forward helped motivate me. And it’s been really incredible. That’s why I started Hire Survivors Hollywood, it’s another tool to knock down the barriers.
Sarah Scott: It made me feel like the patriarchal system in Hollywood is very secure and strong. Like, okay, you think about the early days in Hollywood and now even in 2020, it’s still happening, that really speaks to how powerful it is. So now to see Harvey come down, it’s like hallelujah.
LOUISETTE GEISS: I was upset that it took this long but I’m excited that it’s happening. I’m a mom with two young girls. So I’m happy to see it changing. At least now they’re looking at it. Before, if we would have gone forward, they would have told us to get out of here. But now it’s being taken seriously.
Why does it seem like people in entertainment are easier to take down, but politicians are coasting?
Jessica: There is a drastic power imbalance and predators prey on our dreams. This dream was in my heart at 7 years old. I didn’t know what I was getting into. Bu they use that against you. My career was completely derailed by two people in power. And that’s heart breaking. But it’s not just in Hollywood. it’s not entertainment. it’s in every industry. Bollywood and Hollywood and everywhere.
Sarah Scott: There is a common belief by men and women that going into the industry - Bollywood or Hollywood - that we knew what we were getting into by entering in this industry. And that’s just not true.
PAM GUEST: I don’t think that’s 100% true. In entertainment, you hear about it thanks to a. Lot of the women in this room. But politics are spread out all over the place. There was a group in New York City who were abused by various people in the state legislature and began pointing fingers and naming names. One of the guys is still in place. In the Hollywood industry, we as victims were fortunate that we’re close and we’re able to come together and speak out together. But in politics, it’s much more spread out.
Jessica Barth: I think this notion that it’s easy is a fallacy, too. You hear names coming out and perhaps it seems like this is happening to everyone. But for everyone one case you hear, ya know, there are hundreds. If you’re reading something when reported by a credible news outlet, the probability is that it’s true. It’s not easy to get these stories out. They’re so highly vetted.
Sarah Ann Masse: And there are still so many people who have not been held accountable who have had so many brave voices come forward and yet, they’re still working. The power of Hollywood is real. And it’s real in DC. The power is incredibly hard to break through. There’s a lot of reform that has to be done in the criminal justice system to break down those barriers. It’s not easy to bring anyone down in any industry but I do think that we will keep seeing it continue to happen as long as we continue to keep coming forward together.
MIRA SORVINO: With the extreme polarization of the country, when people see you being an actress they say that you knew what you were getting into. They always have. But now I see a big increase in people who are saying that I slept with Harvey Weinstein or that victims willingly did this. I’ve noticed this more and more. There’s a lot of hate coming my way for supporting a political candidate but also for coming forward as a survivor with my experience. Just like with the Christine Blassey Ford story, there’s so much mudslinging. I see it with Kamala Harris: being accused of sleeping her way to the top. And I’m curious if it’s just me or if everyone is experiencing this same thing.
Katherine Kendall: I’m in DC right now and I’ve noticed the crazy paradox of people who I know who support Trump but will also say that Harvey Weinstein is a pig. But then this complete disregard to anything with Trump. It’s just a you choose to see what your want to see.
CAITLIN DULANY: Whether it’s in politics or other areas, the idea that Harvey was a monster but he was a one off and we put the monster to bed and now we don’t need to look so closely because everything has changed. We don’t need to look so closely at the dynamics of the people in power and those who were assaulted. You know, how many Weinsteins ARE there? When things are changing, those are the things that we have to come back. We have to keep moving that needle forward, in progress of all ways. Harvey Weinstein is a monster and that’s easy to say. But there is still so much work to be done. What happened to Christine Blassey Ford and being able to speak about what happened to her in high school, it’s a great step forward. We just have to keep moving forward.
Mira Sorvino: it’s just the tip of the iceburg. And until Trump is out of the office, I don’t think what we will see.
What advice would you give to men who are trying to date and are usually expected to make the first move (sometimes knowing the girl has a history of abuse) but don't want to cross boundaries?
Sarah Ann Masse: JUST ASK. Just ask - say I would like to kiss you. It doesn’t ruin the moment. It removes the potential trauma. And even if it feels awkward, why not communicate? Talk about the way things feel - the way you like to be touched and kissed. It’s okay to talk about.
When the rumors become suspicion, how do they manage to still attract victims who have heard the stories?
MIRA: Rape and abuse and power imbalance has been going on not for decades, for a millennia. And I’m beyond proud to be in this era with women like you, watching this surge of all of these brave people who said wait a second, this is happening and we’re not going to be silent about it anymore so that maybe one day we can stop it from happening. That’s really exciting.
LOUISETTE: I’m elated that this time is here. It’s important to note that when you are a victim of assault and you come forward, the onus is on your back. Not theirs. This is why Believe Survivors is our mantra. We didn’t want this to happen. We didn’t want any of this. We wanted to act. These are the threads I put in my musical - these things are hard to carry. When you go forward after everything to the judicial system and you’re not taken seriously, it’s deflating.
LOUISE: In the parenting that we’ve received, it was all about getting compliance. We’ve all operated in that “power over” approach. Where one person has power and they’re making the other person comply. “Power with” approach is about bringing it together. You can check out Katherine Kendall’s podcast ROAR for an entire episode in which I talk in depth about this paradigm.
have you looked into Dan Schneider?
SARAH ANN MASSE - One of the things important to note is that we’re able to choose who we get to work with. And that’s an important choice we get to make .... We do have individual power and our choices impact others for good and bad. So I hope that people in power decide to make those good choices.
LOUISE GODBOLD: I’d like to talk about what we haven’t touched on which is the power - Why are politicians able to get away with their behavior? Or the women who might cling to old systems or beliefs. What we’re talking about is the power dynamic and that’s what needs to change. I know I sound like a soft spoken rebel. But that’s what needs to change. We can’t diminish the impact of sexual assault because it’s so traumatizing. But it’s important to remember that Harvey was also a bully. And if we can change our institutions to not accept that sort of power-over approach, we can make the difference. With the women who still believe these old systems, it’s internal oppression. Boys will be boys and all of that. It’s internal oppression. How can we talk about a power WITH culture rather than a power OVER culture and how can we best become trauma informed? We know that so many abusers are themselves also victims of abuse. When we’re talking about real reform we have to go back and look at the power dynamics we’ve accepted from parenting and education and understand what part of the brain is accepting that and how can we access a higher point of the brain that can process that so we can move froward.
Privately document assaults? Why? Don't you want to expose the assailants?
Jessica: At Voices in Action, we offer the ability to privately report your experience of sexual assault. We’re not in the business of outing perpetrators or exposing anyone. We put the power and the voice in complete control of the victim and survivor. What’s critical about having that is that if you report, you receive a time stamped receipt which can serve as a valuable piece of evidence if you come forward to authorities later if or when you feel safe. There’s nothing more powerless than having your body violated, so it’s crucial for us to put the control back in the hands of the survivors. We also have a serial perpetrator matching system which will help to alert on abusers who have done these things multiple times.
LOUISETTE GEISS: When I came forward publically, I had more faith that our judicial system was a lot further along than it actually is. There’s still a lot of the old boys club going on and it’s hard to change the old boys club when the old boys club are the ones changing the laws.
PAM GUEST: I was assaulted in 1971 or 1972 as a student at a phony audition. I put in the back of my head and tried to move on but figured out years later that it was affecting everything in my life, in everything that I did. I found out who he was years later... Even now when I talk about it, my voices goes away... But I found out who he was in 2013 and I found out that he was a serial perpetrator, who had been exposed in 2009. I felt terribly guilty that I never reported on him back in the 1970s. And the DA told me that even if I had reported on him, nothing would have happened. It wasn’t until 13 women came forward that she was able to make anything happen. Then it took years and ultimately he ended up taking his own life. But still, all of the original issues that exist as blocks to our progress still exist. And even the night before Harvey Weinstein’s conviction, I was convinced that he was going to get off. Because they always get off. But he didn’t. He didn’t.
Please post your questions - we're all on zoom and answering, so we'll post answers as we see them.
Did you found Voices in Action before the #MeToo movement, or did the movement inspire the organization?
Also, I really admire the work you’re doing!
I joined Voices in Action about a year ago. Here is a news story on why Jessica Barth founded the organization.
Do you see Voices In Action eventually spreading internationally? In Canada we experience the same type of power dynamics (if you aren’t familiar with Gian Gomeshi, his case is a great example) and it would be nice to have more support.
Do you see Voices In Action eventually spreading internationally? In Canada we experience the same type of power dynamics (if you aren’t familiar with Gian Gomeshi, his case is a great example) and it would be nice to have more support.
Absolutely. We have assembled an amazing group of leaders who are volunteering their time to help us design and develop a secure, safe, private platform that will support anyone anywhere. That is actually why we're launching a GoFundMe today - we have volunteer technical expertise, but we need funding to develop what is designed. Our current platform has actually helped bring several predators to account, but we don't publicize that to protect the survivors. You can help us by sharing our campaign which you can review here: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign-manager/manage/voices-in-action-inc/beprovoice
Voices in Action is currently only able to serve victims in the United States. We hope some day that can legally change. But please check out ROSA.COM, it’s a fantastic platform run by friends of Voices in Action with a very similar mission.
I am still monitoring this thread and will try to get some of the answers to questions posted after the AMA.
How we are thriving today: KATHERINE KENDALL: I did start a podcast and it was because of Lou and the people I met at her Echo conference. I talk to survivors and stories of courage, taking a step out and stories of inspiration. Lou is my recurring star and everyone contacts me about her being a revelatory star.
PAM GUEST: When the Weinstein revelations came out I was just nominated to the SAG-AFTRA board and it was obvious that we needed to form a task force to confront the issues of sexual assault. And now I’m working with kids working in entertainment, to put forward videos for the state mandated trauma films for children. I also wrote a book and then shot a film with my daughter on the book, it’s called “The First of Many.”.
SARAH ANN MASSE: In February, I launched an initiative called HIRE SURVIVORS HOLLYWOOD. It’s a platform to make it publicly aware that this is something so many of us have dealt with, being blacklisted from jobs and losing opportunities. I was happy to be a face on this because there are still so many people who are afraid to come forward. And we’ve had so many expletive commit to taking our pledge to HIRE SURVIVORS. And I’m just so happy that my little initiative and team have signed on to that pledge and that’s our goal moving forward, making sure that the opportunities of the spots that are opening up as more and more abuser are removed for positions, are going to survivors and people in the LGBTQ community and disabled and people of color and anyone who has suffered.
SARAH SCOTT: I’m a new mom and I’m busy with that but I did get certified as an intimacy coordinator for on set. I thought that this year was going to look a lot different. But I’m excited to be in service on set, I like to think of ourselves, as storytellers, in service to humanity. And thank you so much because I support Voices in Action and all of you.
LOUISETTE: Three years ago, when we came forward but I became part of an email list and then I was in contact with everyone who involved with what happened with Harvey and others and it was so heartbreaking. There was a quote by Wayne Dyer that said when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. And that’s what I wanted to do. And having children at home and everything that happened, it hasn’t been easy. So really wanting to put out something that helped people see all of this differently. So that’s what I did. I brought together a group of women who experienced assault and abuse from so many survivors from Harvey to Bill Cosby. And I put together the musical and it’s amazing and Diane Warren does the music. And we were able to hire so many survivors - as a musical it made it a bit difficult to keep that open but we’ve done a great job. During COVID has been difficult but we’re putting it out there and it’s been great and hopefully soon COVID will be over and we can all go see it. It’s called THE RIGHT GIRL. And that’s because it takes the right girl at the right time to make a difference. And I hope it makes a difference. LOUISETTE: Let’s also note that as survivors, we’re always asked to do things - interviews and whatever, and we don’t receive any compensation for that. And I hope that changes, that people are not being just used for their stories. We need to be lifting everybody up.
LOUISE GODBOLD: There are so many layers here. I run a nonprofit called Echo Training and have been there since early 2000’s, well before the Harvey stories broke. And what we deal with is primarily trauma and childhood trauma. it’s all connected. I’ve realized as an adult just how hard it is for me to process my own activations when I haven’t healed from my own trauma. LOUISE: in a world so saturated by clinicians, I worked extra time trying to ensure all of my sources were triple checked. And now I see that as a survivor, and especially after working with all of you, I have realized my own credibility. Survivor stories should be listened to. It should be the main perspective that matters. All of the legislation and procedures and policies - if we’re not asking survivors if it’s working for them, it’s not working. Our voices... We are the experts, because we’ve been through it. So in addition to teaching people about trauma, the approach I’ve taken is being trauma-informed. here’s a real life story: somebody I was working with was a victim of an international pedophile ring. The team was a tip-top investigative team, it has gone to the FBI, and they thought they were being so trauma informed and they approached the woman proudly saying we understand that time during COVID is difficult to find privacy on Zoom at home, so we booked you a hotel room. Well, it turns out, the victim was abused in hotel rooms, which only made it re-traumatizing for her. They never bothered to ask the survivor. And that’s what we need to be doing.
CAITLIN: I support Voices in Action so much and I’m so happy that I was able to help get it started in the beginning. Now I’m the vice chair of the sexual assault committee for SAG-AFTRA. COVID has put a bit of a halt on that but we’ve been working on a sub committee in helping support safety with child actors. And I’m working with Time’s Up Entertainment. And I’m happy to have contributed to Louisette’s musical, The Right Girl. I’m also involved in the civil case against Harvey Weinstein. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in criminal and civil courts, so I feel very responsible as a representative in helping the women in that case and involved with statute of limitations. I don’t know what the case will bring but I’m proud to be doing this work.
MIRA SORVINO: I’m so heartened to hear about everything everyone is doing, it’s so inspirational. this year was so personal for me. I was able to be part of 10 laws getting passed previously in dealing with sexual assault. This year has been difficult in that. But I’m currently developing a project in my work fighting human trafficking, bringing a mental health, trauma informed service to victims of trafficking. It’s not finished but I’m working on it and have put a lot of effort into it. And I feel like coming forward with my own experience has really helped me move forward with this survivor-centric approach. I’m in Bulgaria filming, and grateful continue in my acting work. But I’m also so, so grateful for this fellowship — I wish there was a good name for women-led “fellowship” haha, and I’m so happy to hear how everyone is doing and look forward to when we can all meet in the same room together.
JESSICA BARTH: I just want to touch on something Louise said... When I feel like I’m not being taken seriously, I go into fight mode. And it’s not just for me. I become incredibly protective for everyone else fighting this battle, demanding that everyone be taken seriously. It’s so extremely personal to be doing this work. But I’ve put so much of this energy into Voices in Action, working with the most wonderful, trauma-informed team of experts. Together, we’ve created a system based in innovative technology and modern, trauma-informed research. This is a system well beyond just reporting. Through private time stamped documentation for evidence, tracking and alerting on serial perpetrators, and providing holistic support and prevention for survivors and everyone — we can END rape culture and eradicate sexual violence.
What about child slavery? Why are you doing nothing about Ghislane? That whole sex cult, where they have an island with kids used for sex. Why do you rise up for the women, but not the kids?
Several Silence Breakers are actively involved in work combatting human trafficking and child slavery. Mira Sorvino is quite active as an advocate and dedicates a great deal of her time fighting these issues.
Will you disavow the "Believe All Women" mantra and instead adopt something that involves due process?
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