Hello Valley Patriot Readers,
We’ve seen in recent years how non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are all too often abused to hide the misdeeds of harassers and abusers by requiring the legal silencing of victims. They have fostered a culture of intimidation and disrespect and only in recent years have brave victims come forward with their painful stories of harassment or outright assault.
Harvey Weinstein and Steve Wynn, for instance, sexually harassed or assaulted hundreds of women and were able to move undetected from one victim to the next by using NDAs to cover up their misdeeds and seek out new targets.
We will also never forget when it was exposed that the leadership of the Catholic Church had covered up decades of child sexual molestation, abuse and rape. One tool used to silence child victims and cover up assaults in the church was the NDA.
These same hush agreements are also being used right here, in our state and municipal governments, using your public taxpayer dollars. In the Massachusetts House of Representatives alone, at least 33 NDAs have been handed out by the current Speaker of the House.
Some progress has thankfully been made on this issue in the Massachusetts State Senate, where last year I filed and passed a bill that completely bans the use of NDAs in our chamber. While I celebrate this progress at the State House, there is still so much more work to be done statewide.
Recently, I was honored and humbled to be joined at the State House by former Fox News reporters and current empowerment advocates Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky. They joined me for a call to action regarding the continued abuse of NDAs in cases of harassment and assault in our government and across Massachusetts.
In this bipartisan, good government effort, we were joined by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Democratic Congresswoman Lori Trahan joined us, along with Republican State Representative Alyson Sullivan. Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who you may remember had a role in the movie “Spotlight,” based on his work representing hundreds of victims of clergy sexual abuse, was also a speaker at our call to action.
The goal of the event was to call for the passage of legislation that I filed – Senate Bill 929, An Act concerning sexual harassment policies in the commonwealth. The bill would ban the use of taxpayer dollars from being used to silence people through NDAs and it would prevent such agreements from being forced on victims of sexual harassment and assault in the private sector. The bill in no way strips a victim of their right to maintain their confidentiality. It simply ensures that predators are not able to keep their abuse a secret so that they are able to continue to move from one victim to the next, undetected. This is a public safety issue, a transparency and accountability issue, and a workers’ rights issue.
Both the Governor and the Speaker continue to insist, however, that our tax dollars pay for these hush agreements across our government.
It’s past time to make policy changes, not only to help those who have already been silenced but also to protect potential future victims from abusers who could be hiding in plain sight. NDAs perpetuate harassment and outright assault and place others at risk by keeping these offenses secret.
These states have been proactive in reforming outdated laws around NDAs. California, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington have banned them in abuse cases.
Massachusetts has fallen short and can no longer sit on the sidelines. This is our opportunity to do the right thing and get on the right side of history.
If you have any questions about this or any other issue, please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at (617) 722-1604.
Yours in service,