UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter reports that Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund co-founder Roberta Kaplan has now resigned from the org. More information on Kaplan follows below.
In an incendiary open letter posted this morning by Alison Turkos, a self-professed “sexual assault survivor [who is] fighting for systemic change,” 40 survivors — including a number of former Time’s Up clients and employees — have spoken out against the current state of the foundation, which was originally formed in 2018 in response to the rising visibility of issues regarding sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond. In the letter, a “collective group of survivors and victims” write that they believe that Time’s Up, which now includes a variety of initiatives and branches aimed at entertainment, tech, advertising, health care, and more, is “failing the survivor community.”
The letter opens: “We believed in your mission and hoped that your investment in eradicating sexual assault and harassment in the workplace would change the tide to support us as we came forward, but we are disappointed. TIME’S UP has abandoned the very people it was supposed to champion. The board continues to fail to heed the outcry from survivors. TIME’S UP is failing all survivors.”
The letter appears to have been inspired by recent revelations that Time’s Up leaders “Roberta Kaplan and Tina Tchen [were] named in the 165 page Attorney General’s report investigating the allegations of sexual harassment by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In the detailed report, Kaplan and Tchen, in their roles at TIME’S UP, weaponized their knowledge of survivors experiences to help Governor Cuomo and his office retaliate against at least one of nearly a dozen women who were courageous in speaking up about the myriad of ways he abused his power and violated their bodies in the workplace.”
It continues, “Instead of helping survivors remain at the center of our own stories, we find out in the press that you were consulted by abusers to aid them in victim-blaming and undermining our ability to come forward. This behavior harms all survivors. This behavior discourages survivors from seeking support and speaking out and causes ripples of distrust felt throughout our movement. This behavior has us questioning who we can truly trust. Whether or not you agreed to help, perpetrators of harm felt comfortable reaching out to you for crisis management. That is a problem.”
Turkos and the letter’s other authors and signatories go on to mention other instances in which Time’s Up has been implicated in being complicit with abuse, including the recent revelation that “TIME’S UP Healthcare board members resigned en masse after allegations that board member Dr. Esther Choo was accused ‘of brushing off an allegation of sexual misconduct’ that was brought to her attention by a coworker at Oregon Health and Science University.”
While the organization and its starry members have often been the focus of positive press over the past three years, today’s letter refutes the true power of such stories, instead making it plain that the people who Time’s Up was created to help feel left behind by the org. The letter also notes that “for those of us who have worked directly with you, we haven’t received the wraparound support that you’ve promised in the press. … To make matters worse, TIME’S UP has spun these incidents to donors and the press to falsely demonstrate the vitality of their work without regard for the emotional toll it takes on us. Survivors, not donors or the media, should be the driving force behind the work. TIME’S UP designed its entire mission, values, and operation around survivors and victims — it’s time we actually feel it.”
The letter concludes with an eight-point plan to “repair the harm done” by Time’s Up and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, including a “third-party investigation and issue a detailed report illustrating the full extent to which TIME’S UP board members and staff members have been approached by, offered advice to, or are representing perpetrators of harm” and the removal of any “board members, and staffers, who have supported perpetrators of harm, effective immediately.”
The plan also includes calls for the return of donations by individuals and corporations that have active allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or are litigating in opposition to survivors,” along with the ending of all partnerships with similar individuals and corporations and much more.