Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant broke a confidentiality agreement Tuesday to detail the last “distressing” two decades she spent in silence due to her former boss, who she called a “repulsive monster.”
Zelda Perkins worked for the movie mogul’s Miramax Films in the 1990s but resigned after a colleague accused Weinstein of attempted rape — an allegation he has denied. In 1998, Perkins said she signed a non-disclosure agreement and was given about $168,000 in a settlement that prevented her from telling anybody about the alleged sexual assault.
During a Tuesday television interview with BBC Newsnight, her first since the settlement, Perkins finally spoke out on Weinstein’s “habit of behaving inappropriately,” his need to dominate and how she was traumatized after confronting him about the rape claim.
“The last 20 years have been distressing, where I’ve not been allowed to speak, where I’ve not been allowed to be myself,” she said. “Although the process that I went through was legal, it was immoral.”
In response to Perkins’ interview, Paul Tweed, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, said the embattled producer “categorically denies engaging in any non- consensual conduct or alleged threatening behaviour,” in a statement to TIME.
Perkins painted her former boss as a “brilliant and stimulating person to be around,” but also a “master manipulator” with constant mood swings. “With Harvey, there was no such word as ‘no,’” she said. “I don’t think he’s a sex addict. He’s a power addict.”
Perkins said one woman warned her about Weinstein’s behavior when she first took the job with him. The woman told Perkins not to sit on couches with him and to choose a single-seat armchair instead. Perkins said she later warned others about his behavior, though she said she thought they were safe because she never felt physically threatened by him. “I was wrong,” she told the BBC.
Perkins said she pulled Weinstein out of an important business meeting after her colleague came forward to tell Perkins about how Weinstein tried to rape her. “She was shaking, very distressed, clearly in shock,” Perkins said.
Perkins said Weinstein denied the incident at the time. Perkins quit and left the industry. She said her lawyers said she “didn’t have very many options” in terms of legal action, so she ended up agreeing to a settlement.
Perkins said the experience left her “broken” and distressed until now, after choosing to speak out during an international movement in which dozens of women have come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
Dozens of women in Hollywood have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape after the New York Times published an explosive report in October about previously undisclosed allegations against him. Weinstein has denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex,” his spokesperson has said.
It’s unclear what legal repercussions Perkins faces from breaking her confidentially agreement.