Allowing NDAs in the #MeToo era is like banning cigarette smoking in public places but permitting cigars without restriction.
Give our voices back! As victims of gender-based violence and sexual harassment, we know what it’s like to have our dignity, our careers and often our health taken from us — without our consent. Too often, are voices are stolen from us, too. That’s just what non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) do.
When victims are prevented from sharing our stories in a way that will protect other women, predators are shielded, and so are the organizations that enabled their misconduct. NDAs foster a culture of fear and silence that leaves too many women at risk. They deny full healing and act as a continuous and living reminder of the damage originally inflicted. They tie the hands of women by preventing us from responding to the smears and rumors that bad actors like to circulate, especially when some insist on portraying themselves as the “victim.” NDAs work in the interests of everybody except the actual victim. In fact, governments allowing NDAs in the #MeToo era is like banning cigarette smoking in public places but permitting cigars without restriction.
It’s time governments stepped up and gave our voices back by ending forced NDAs, beginning with the public sector workplace, and releasing victims from current agreements. With the public sector taking the lead, the expectation is that the private sector will soon follow.
The Zer0Now Campaign has long called for an end to NDAs (at the victim’s option). In submissions to the Canadian House of Commons in 2018, during consideration of proposed anti-harassment legislation, we urged lawmakers to bring an end to forced NDAs. We support the work of @LiftOurVoicesUS, founded by Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky. Both Ms. Carlson and Ms. Roginsky were forced to sign NDAs while at Fox News Corporation in order to see any resolution to the harm that a misogynistic FNC culture (at the time, at least) inflicted on them.
Several U.S. states have already taken steps to outlaw forced NDAs. A House of Commons committee of U.K. lawmakers has also called into question the use of forced NDAs. But Premier Ford’s ations show Canada is several ice ages away from similar action, even though NDAs are just as much a hardship and an insult to Canadian victims as they are to our U.S. and U.K. sisters.
ZeroNow is calling on Canada’s Parliament to hold hearings that will give victims of sexual trauma and sexual violence a chance to regain their voices.
Many victims have contacted ZeroNow’s Outreach Clinic over the years about being abused by NDAs. Some say they felt muzzled and hamstrung by these gag orders, which almost invariably are used to serve the interests of predators and complicit organizations. Others said the restrictions NDAs have put on them make them feel like they’re being suffocated and unable to breath. Gagging does that to victims. In many ways, and to many victims, an NDA is like a second assault that never stops.
We’re re-launching our campaign by calling on all public and corporate leaders to undo the harm of NDAs. They’re OUR voices. They’ve been stolen from us. It’s time to give them back!