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Sexual harassment needs to end, so my daughter doesn't go through what my mother did

Every employer must prevent sexual abuse in the workplace. That's why I joined #ThatsHarassment.
Image: David Schwimmer
Actor David Schwimmer attends the Build Series to discuss #ThatsHarassment campaign on January 29, 2018 in New York.Jim Spellman / Getty Images

I grew up with stories of sexual harassment from my mother: She was a young, attractive lawyer, working in the emerging field of family law in California, and there weren't a lot of them at the time. But while working at different firms before she established her own, she was subjected to sexual harassment and a lot of discrimination, chauvinism and sexism — by judges, other lawyers, even clients. I grew up with those stories, and so did my sister.

Years later, I heard from my sister and pretty much every woman I know that they had all experienced some form of sexual harassment, and many are victims of sexual assault. And so I've been an advocate for child and adult victims of sexual violence with the The Rape Foundation for 20 years; I've been on the board of directors for the last 15 years.

But I think there was something about the run-up to the election: I really noticed that women were being more openly demeaned and discredited and then, with a presidential candidate boasting of committing sexual assault on audio tape, I thought, This is a real. This is unacceptable. I'm the father of a six-and-a-half year-old daughter; if I'm going to do something about this for the future generations, now is the time.

It was then that Sigal Avin, a good friend and the writer and director of the Israeli anti-harassment film campaign, Zematrid, approached me. She was looking for a producing partner last January to help her recreate them in the United States. For me, it was a no brainer: Given the current climate, in which women and their advocates are fighting to maintain basic human rights, I thought, Yeah. Let's do this.

Eight weeks later, we wrapped the six short films of That’s Harassment: The Politician, the Coworker, The Actor, The Photographer and The Boss (which I’m in). We partnered with her publications and released them online in April 2017 — months before the Weinstein scandal broke in October. And when those revelations and all the others began to surface, and the personal and societal repercussions of sexual harassment and assault became more of a part of the national consciousness, I thought, Darn, we released these videos too soon. I gotta launch them again.

The second time, though, I partnered with The Ad Council, and I wanted to make sure that we included a call to action. In every single public service announcement and every short film, we now have an end card with RAINN's national help hotline, and I also worked with the National Women’s Law Center to create a digital toolkit of 10 steps that employers can take to help prevent harassment in the workplace.

That, to me, is the most important piece of #ThatsHarassment: We're not just a movement to bring awareness to the issue, we are a campaign and a call to action. We are trying to provide real solutions to both get people empowered to report and heal, and to get companies to reform their workplaces.

I want to change things.

We are trying to provide real solutions to both get people empowered to report and heal, and to get companies to reform their workplaces.

Victims who need immediate help can use our resources to reach RAINN’s hotline, or use the NWLC site if they need legal help. I know the importance of listening to victims and making sure they have what they need to heal, from my work with The Rape Foundation. We do a lot of prevention and awareness there, but mostly we treat child and adult victims of sexual violence and abuse, including through Stewart House, which is an international model for the treatment of child victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault.

But, reforming work environments is just as important to me in this campaign. I want to make sure that every employer and every company understands what they can do to help prevent sexual harassment at work. If every company would do that, that would be a good start to ending the sexual harassment that women have had to ensure for generations. And then, maybe, my daughter’s generation won’t have to endure what my mother’s did, and what mine did.

As told to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.