Since the horrifying stories about film producer Harvey Weinstein started coming out almost daily, many have asked how this disturbing behavior was kept under wraps for so long. The answer is simple: secret settlements, which can silence victims and ensure that justice does not prevail.
These types of settlement agreements allow perpetrators to remain unaccountable and continue victimizing others simply because they have enough money to buy silence. It is vital that we protect future victims by pulling back the curtain of secrecy that endangers women and men alike.
That is precisely why I will introduce legislation to ban confidentiality provisions in settlements in sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination cases. I am in no way looking to ban settlements – only the secrecy clauses that allow perpetrators to escape justice and accountability.
The Weinstein case is not the only one involving secret settlements. Others include the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. I look forward to my proposed legislation helping to prevent the rich and powerful from being able to get away with their offenses.
Whether the victim works in a corporate headquarters, at a neighborhood school, in a warehouse or even the state Capitol, he or she should know that sexual harassment and assault are always wrong and will not be tolerated. The recent alarming disclosures about the culture of sexual harassment at the Capitol only reinforce the need to make this legislation apply across the board to protect employees at both private and public workplaces.
I look forward to my colleagues strongly supporting this proposal, as they did bills I authored and Gov. Jerry Brown signed to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape in 2016 and to criminalize sexual extortion this year.
It is long overdue for deep pocketed rapists and harassers – and their employers that try to protect them – to be unable to hide behind their wallets and fame. Enough is enough.
Connie M. Leyva, a Chino Democrat, represents the 20th state Senate District. She can be contacted at Senator.Leyva@senate.ca.gov.