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EXCLUSIVE: Lauren O’Connor: On Standing Up to Harvey Weinstein and Reclaiming Our Voice

03/03/20

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(Z-61051V) CM1006 COACH MIKE: LAUREN O'CONNOR

(START PODCAST)

 

MIKE BAYER: Hey guys, welcome to the Coach Mike Podcast. As you know last week Harvey Weinstein was convicted in the New York city court on one count of third degree rape, one count of a criminal sexual act. He faces five to 29 years in prison. Weinstein’s abuse was exposed in the New York Times article in 2017, the cornerstone of that article was a leaked memo written by a 28-year-old Weinstein company employee and she is my guest today, Lauren O’Connor. Thank you so much and welcome to the show, Lauren.

 

LAUREN O’CONNOR: Thanks so much for having me, Mike.

MIKE: How are you feeling?

LAUREN: Um, a little nervous… a little nervous, a little shocked. I think all, all the normal things maybe, but good; it’s a good week.

MIKE: Yeah so you're… Your courage of writing that memo um… was kind of the first exposure to what had been going on. (STAMMERS) Can you talk a little bit about that memo?

LAUREN: Yeah, you know so I had been an employee for two years at the point when I filed that and um, you know in so many ways it was a dream job. I started there at 26, left at 28. You know… Harvey was really of two worlds in a sense that he was you know tremendously verbally abusive but also by equal or opposite measure tremendous mentor. And I had both the privilege and the pain of working very closely with him and uh, you know, it was um overtime I started you pick up on things that were happening that weren’t right on certain patterns um and there was one night where a woman you know a young woman came to my hotel in the middle of the night and started crying (STAMMERS) you know was choking on her own words and told me about what we’ve now come to know you know massages, um, and in moments like that you can't unsee something, you can’t unknown something, the question then became what can I do about it? You know, I’m 28… I’m just starting out, um, but (STAMMERS) but I couldn’t in good conscious continue working and not try to do something.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) You’ve been with the company for two years?

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: And how was it the first tie you met Harvey, like was this a dream job?

LAUREN: Oh beyond, beyond, yeah I mean you know this (STAMMERS) before he was Harvey the Monster you know he was the man that’s more than God at the Oscars. Um, he –the films he made and formed the reason why I wanted to work with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the reason I believed in the story. Um, you know

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: But how’d you get the job?

LAUREN: Yes so I was working as a (STAMMERS) literally scout so (STAMMERS) publishing marketplace um, for you know to be made into movies and TV shows which sounds very fancy. I was very junior at my career um, and a friend of mine called me and said Harvey is looking for someone who knows how to do what you do. I think you’d be a good fit for the company. I met him for breakfast, I was hired in the room and kind of –I couldn’t believe it you know, everything was beginning. You know, you’re 26 years old, you’re living in a 300 you know, square foot apartment in New York with a roommate and you –you know, end up at a breakfast table across from the man that produced the movies that you know, changed the way you saw the world. I was so excited to be there and you know, I knew it was gonna be a rigorous environment you know, I knew that there would be a lot of travel, a lot of late phone calls um, very intense work that I was really ready for the challenge. I was excited for it.

MIKE: So excited, and what was the first moment you were working for him, where you –like where he spoke to someone a certain way or where you felt like oh what is this?

LAUREN: Um… I mean he was a yeller but I think there –for me at least there was a perception that the ability to withstand that heat was a necessity of being able to function in my career. (STAMMERS) those kinds of layers of abusive behavior became really quickly normalized.

MIKE: Like what? Do you remember? Anything like he talked to employees or people there and you’re like what is this?

LAUREN: Yeah (STAMMERS) Here’s what was hard and confusing about the verbal abuse is when a man that talented tells you that you’re smart and talented, you believe it. But you also know that you know, whether you made a mistake or he was just in a mood that compliment could be turned against you. You're too smart, you're too talented.

MIKE: I just (STAMMERS) there would be moments where your –you see how he’s speaking to a person and your own values you may sit there and go well this comes with the territory but at the same time like, what is this?

LAUREN: Yeah it’s um, (STAMMERS) this is gonna be a little bit of a nerdy reference but there’s this David Foster Wallace Canyon graduation speech and in it the anecdote I over right is um an old fish swims by two young fish and he says, “How's the water today boys?” The young fish look at him and say,” It’s water.” And that’s what working in that environment was like. It’s abusive without question; I mean you worked around the clock. But you know, you were young in your career. You didn’t have a lot of points of comparison so even if it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on a fundamental human level (STAMMERS) you weren’t fully aware. And layer on top of that the fact that you yourself are also being abused.

MIKE: And you’re thinking almost like this is just the way it is—

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: …if you want to be—

LAUREN: If you want to succeed, if you want to pay your rent, like you have to be able to work in this kind of environment.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: And you—

LAUREN: For this dream to be possible.

MIKE: And do you think it was building for you? Like the feelings that led up to the memo, like you were, kind of like (STAMMERS) –

LAUREN: Absolutely I mean I think the thing about you know, high stress environments, it demands such a high level of compartmentalization. So if you’re working –say I was working a 17 hour work day, 12 hour work day and something for 10 minutes of that day seems off in the way he treated a woman you know, when it comes to the landscape of sexual harassment and assault it’s 10 minutes of 12 hours and that moment passes you so quickly and you’re trained to focus on getting the job done. So for me I think (STAMMERS) on just a core level you pick up on these things but it took a while to actually see them and for that compartmentalization to like um, you know to break down (s and see a pattern and it build, it did build, um, like its funny you know, I was talking to a friend recently and uh, for reasons I can’t even explain I watched the Titanic about two months ago, and in it, (STAMMERS) were watching the bottom of the ship flood and all of a sudden the water rises all the way to the ceiling and passes over the barrier, you know, the barriers that were supposed to contain the water and can’t anymore, you know, that’s what it was like.

MIKE: So for you it was building (STAMMERS)

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: …building, it was like the yelling, it was filling up more and then there’s a moment that happened where you just couldn’t tolerate—

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: You just –yeah I mean you know, someone comes crying to your room in the middle of the night.

MIKE: Literally, like knocking—

LAUREN: Knocking on my door, pounding on my door and I open it and I’m not kidding when I say she was choking, on her own tears. And uh—

MIKE: Wow and did you know her?

LAUREN: Yeah for a very peripherally um… and it was tricky you know, because I think with assault, with consent, with violation feeling like somebody is safe to turn to and will respect your wishes is important. You know, and I remember saying to her um, you know, if you ever decide to do something about this, if you ever want to go to HR like I’ll go (STAMMERS) with you. You know, I’ll let them know that this happened. Um, no career is worth it to me but I also promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone. You know, she was confiding in me she had just been violated and that was really –that’s important. That’s important you know, um and so what I did eventually write in that memo, it was really difficult because I felt an obligation…

MIKE: To her.

LAUREN: To her, yeah, to keep her name private. To respect, her consent frankly as whether she wanted that story told –

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: Why do you think she came to you?

LAUREN: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know—I think um you know, we had developed a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I think she was really brave to come to me, I think she was really brave.

MIKE: And did, so you guys sit in your hotel room talking about what happened?

LAUREN: This happened literally in the doorframe.

MIKE: Wow.

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: And then it’s like, goes back to the room, end of the night.

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: Next morning started—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: 6am and we’re going (STAMMERS)

MIKE: And you’re back with Harvey and you’re just like—

LAUREN: And works back on you know, you're back to work.

MIKE: At that moment in your doorway is that when it hit, kind of breaking point for you?

LAUREN: Yeah, like when I talk about, kind of like the Titanic flooding (STAMMERS) that’s the moment that pushed the water over the wall for me and (STAMMERS) a moment like not if you do something but how? Right? Because this woman, this young woman just been violated, come to me, asked me not to tell um needing that sense of safety, confidence and support but also as you know someone you know, you’re his prior at 23 had been assaulted myself and feel that I could speak for myself um, I wouldn’t (STAMMERS) have been able to look in the mirror the next day if I didn’t try to do something.

MIKE: So you had been through a sexual assault prior?

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: And that was almost like your way of going oh no, I didn’t stand up in that moment perhaps but now I’m gonna help this girl stand for something? Or…

LAUREN: I think standing up for yourself in the midst of a sexual assault can be a tricky way to look things um because an assault doesn’t happen because you didn’t stand up for yourself and assault happens regardless of that. That’s what makes it violating. And you know I think what it was, was this –the look on her face I know what that feels like. I've been there, I've been there and if this was happening and I was aware of it um, and I –frankly an opportunity to try and do something that –that could help that from not happening

To somebody else, like I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like and if there is a way in which I can um, lessen the risk that someone is able to do that to somebody else—like I had to, it’s an imperative.

MIKE: And you went through it yourself… What was your way of handling it?

LAUREN: Yeah I mean when (STAMMERS) the next day I told you know, my roommate at the time something –I didn’t use the word rape but I said that something really twisted had happened and um, --

MIKE: (STAMMERS) with your sexual assault?

LAUREN: Referencing the night.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) okay.

LAUREN: So referencing (STAMMERS) the next morning I told her something really twisted had happened and the response was you’ll never –I’m not married but you’ll never be able to tell your husband about that and I don’t think she’s an unsupportive person or friend –but I think were’ socialized to isolate violation, like were socialized, put in a box and tuck it away, it’s shameful, don’t tell anyone you know, and I remember a couple of months later I still couldn’t quite make sense of what happened. It's not –you know, you don’t quite wake up the next morning and go like oh my gosh, that’s what happened to me. It’s, what just happened? It’s a question, you know, (STAMMERS) you don’t want to believe. Your body and your spirit have to deal with that and um, you know, but I remember a couple of months later going to a therapist, my first time going to therapy ever.

MIKE: First time.

LAUREN: Ever, ever—

MIKE: Based upon this –

LAUREN: I just knew that I was not feeling okay. Like I just knew I did not feel okay. (STAMMERS) um, needed to sort out what happened that night. Not because I didn’t remember but because I was scared of the word. I was scared of that word, and um... you know, and I went to the therapist and I still remember what I said, I said, “I’m hesitant to use the word rape because it’s a really big word but here’s what happened you know, a couple of months ago and that therapist said to me well he sounds piggish but what we should really talk about is how you can prevent that from happening to yourself in the future.

MIKE: Wow.

LAUREN: Yeah. Um, So it took me a long time to come back from that.

MIKE: Did you go back to the therapist?

LAUREN: Yeah I continued I went three or four times and then I just stopped going and that shut me down for the better part of like a year—

MIKE: What a terrible introduction to therapy.

LAUREN: Oh yeah, I have a great therapist now. Amazing but yes, it was (STAMMERS) that idea of don’t speak or you can prevent—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: Yeah you can prevent what someone else what someone else chooses to do like that really that kind of psychology has taken a really long time to unwind.

MIKE: Wow.

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: And, and so… so being that you had had that experience and going to therapy and then that conversation that happened in the doorway and then making a decision, how long after that to (STAMMERS) HR or what was your process?

LAUREN: Yeah it took a while (STAMMERS) um because I was really weighing the fact that I gave someone my word um, and I did not want to you know, expose them or violate their trust but I also had you know, felt like a responsibility you know, and so I thought really hard about the phrasing and ultimately the memo wasn’t about that singular experience, it was many forms you know of harassment and abuse and uh, you know, gender discrimination, etcetera and um you know, it’s I knew I had to do something, what I knew I had was literally a keyboard that likes to use words, like I like to write and uh, you know, that there was a way to put it together where I did not have to reveal her identity. And to this day that instance was you know, dubbed, fit enough to be published in the New York Times but no one’s been able to confirm who she is and you know, I say all that to say that it gets really hard sometimes to know what the quote on quote right thing to do is. It’s not, you know, I felt very clear that I had to do something but how you do it, what you do um, isn’t clear cut, it's not simple. It’s not all systems go, you don’t start by taking the most extreme action, you actually start in small ways right? You uh, maybe try to make sure that you're always with another colleague if you are in a situation right? You start up by figuring out how you can protect yourself. I mean, for me on uh (STAMMERS) I guess instinctual level I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time until a friend said something but I you know, I stopped wearing makeup, stopped doing my hair, I started wearing you know, baggy turtle necks like truly I have one that I finally got rid of but you know, I probably wore it twice a week (STAMMERS) and I don’t say that to say the first thing you need to do is stop meeting alone or stop you know, putting on clothes that make you feel nice, that was my first step and it wasn’t until someone pointing it out to me that I was you know, frankly like no longer physically taking care of my appearance that I realized what – that I was scared… that I was scared, and um, you know, jumping back to that balance of power line, notion of power made it scarier. I mean this is a man who was, probably still is immensely wealthy. World famous. You know, --like 28 years old, I was a kid, and I had no platform, I had no power um, what I had was a pen and I think you know, I think when we’re in these situations the first thing you do and you know, the first thing I did was write an email to my mom and when I was coming to terms with what might or might not be happening and what I was perceiving and the first thing you do is you find somebody you trust, find somebody you feel safe with and you talk to them and I think that’s true you know whether you are standing up to injustice of any kind or when you're processing your own trauma, when you're coming to terms with it. Um, you know, there’s no, there's no clear cut path (STAMMERS) like I don't know the prescriptive way to heal but I know how (STAMMERS) I've found a way to heal and for me I think while writing and filing the memo was in it of itself traumatizing and certainly the press was traumatizing, there’s also a reclamation in that you know, and writing about abuses and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) testimony’s we can also find our own voice, and I didn't know at the time but I think it – I was really changing the state of my own assault. You know, my assault stopped at some point... change from being this moment that separated me from my body and my body from myself, instead turned it into an act of service. You know, and I think that’s important and I think you find the acts of service you do not have to throw a grenade on your career. (LAUGHS) But you find when you feel safe you talk to them and you write things down, above all you write things down that will help you find your voice later.

MIKE: In your own clarity.

LAUREN: Your own clarity.

MIKE: Once emotions start hitting and you're going through, you start to lose –

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: Completely and um there’s this great quote, I really love the TV show, the morning show and there’s this great quote in it which a journalist character says, and I might botch it a little bit but she said um, history is already been written and –history’s been written all that’s left is to out it to the page, and that’s it. That’s it. Um, and I just think like words and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) testimony and bearing witness for people is half the battle. You know, it’s half the battle um, you know, --even in my own case right after, after my assault, after being told not to speak, after being told you know, I should have been able to prevent it, and then after coming to terms with it and wrestling with the fact that speaking to someone, speaking to people about it was actually helpful uh, one of the first things I did a year later was go put words on my own sin. I went and got a tattoo and that was really a big piece reclaiming myself. Big piece of it, and uh—

MIKE: What'd you get?

LAUREN: So… I’m a big fan of Peter Pan um, and there's a quote I really love, “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning” the quote is directions to Never Never Land. And to me it was like, it was a reminder that no matter what happens to you, no matter what happened to you –you can always find your way back. You can always find your way back to that you know, that sense of self, that sense of inner child that needs to be looked after. No matter what happens that cannot be taken away from you. And life is hard, trauma is hard, there’s an immeasurable loss. I've been through a lot and there are losses I can’t even imagine. Um, and I had a really hard time for a while because people you know kind of always told me especially when what I was going through became public. You know, but look at how strong you are, this will make you stronger and I was just like, I did not need to be stronger, thank you. Like I would rather –like I would much rather be you know, like a little fluff ball then go through this and um, but what it did teach me is that I’m incredibly resilient and I think that’s something that everyone has in common. I don’t think that’s unique to me. I think every individual is incredibly resilient (STAMMERS) and finding your voice, finding a way to reclaim your (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and how to honor it. You know, how to honor it um, you know, (STAMMERS) it took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that yes I’m a survivor. Yes I’m the young woman who wrote the memo um, yes I also you know, worked for Harvey um, yes my you know, my memo was a cornerstone, the first article about this… those are pieces of me, those are parts of my definition. Like they're not all of me. You know.

MIKE: So when the New York article came about, what shifted in your life? Because before—

LAUREN: Everything.

MIKE: …(STAMMERS) I mean the irony is that even after the New York Times article I've hung out with you a few times.

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: I had no idea—

LAUREN: Yeah—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

(LAUGHTER)

MIKE: I should have said this at the top –but we’ve hung out a few times—

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: Charity event in Dallas.

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: I had a great time with you and I mean (STAMMERS) it sounds like you know—

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MIKE: What’s that?

LAUREN: 80’s game—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) suit and we’re all having fun and I was uh and I didn’t know any of this and I guess that’s gotta be interesting for you as if somebody has a story about you or –

LAUREN: Yeah It's been a totally, like inside outside thing right? Because this all started after filing the memo. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so it all started with not being able to speak.

MIKE: Because you signed and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to speak.

LAUREN: Mhm. Then the article broke meaning it was published but I still could not actually speak for myself.

MIKE: Ugh!

LAUREN: I still couldn’t speak. So suddenly you know, my words were becoming other people’s words right? Other people could write about me but I couldn’t –

MIKE: Say anything.

LAUREN: No. I was handcuffed you know, and um and yet paradoxically I was still silenced but completely exposed. Completely exposed. I mean the level of press harassment um, just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) phone calls um, you know, as you can imagine legal, there are a lot of legal situations surrounding all of this um, was terrifying. I lost my privacy, you know, my finances were decimated, really—

MIKE: Did you go off social media completely?

LAUREN: Oh, I’m still not on.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(OVERLAPS)

MIKE: Before that were you on it?

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: You were like, talking to friends and family.

LAUREN: Oh totally.

MIKE: Then suddenly you just disappear.

LAUREN: I’m like a Buzzfeed addict because it’s my substitute for Instagram. Like I don’t have something to scroll in the morning and so it's Buzzfeed and whatever click bait I can find.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: Did you (STAMMERS) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I need to get off everything and like were you just paranoid? Was it—

LAUREN: Extraordinary paranoid. And you know, it didn’t help that a couple of months after I’m reading this article in the Guardian that you know, I’m on the list for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for you know, the firm made up of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) (STAMMERS) to dig up dirt on people and like there I am terrified, not knowing what's gonna happen (STAMMERS) needing to expand –hire lawyers in my legal team and you know, I just remember this long period of time where it was hard to get out of bed—

MIKE: I bet.

LAUREN: (STAMMERS) part of what was hard is I didn’t know how to help myself and so I spent a lot of time watching reruns of the Good Wife, looking to understand like you know, (STAMMERS) like I had lawyers explain it and I also loved the wife but to actually understand it like a human way (STAMMERS) what is a subpoena? (STAMMERS) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) things that you know, every young professional asks themselves. But um, and I also watch scandal a lot—

MIKE: Wow.

LAUREN: A lot, like I really did –pretty soon after the article actually I started watching scandal and looking at the team that Olivia (UNINTELLIGIBLE) had put together to understand like okay, do I need a tech guy? Hmm I’ve only ever heard of publicist like you know, helping with a movie release. What is a personal publicist? Like this –it’s not things I knew (STAMMERS) how do I stay out of headlines?

MIKE: Right.

LAUREN: Do I want to be on headlines?

(OVERLAPS)

MIKE: So are you supposed to angle a story that's true or do you just let it be?

LAUREN: If I can’t speak for myself what can be said about me? And if I have been followed (STAMMERS) –

(OVERLAPS)

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LAUREN: What can be misconstrued? You know?

MIKE: Right and did you feel like your world got a lot smaller in terms of like—

LAUREN: Completely. (STAMMERS) I mean I retracted completely because I was also going through this period of time where I didn’t know who to trust. Right? And I, you know, it was so overwhelming… so overwhelming, and um it was very much that feeling of not being able to see your hands in front of you in the dark and—

MIKE: Were you getting the most random phone calls from people you knew too?

LAUREN: (STAMMERS) oh I mean yeah like the first day the article broke like my phone –I think (STAMMERS) probably five hundred text mess– I don’t even think I know 500 people.

MIKE: Right you probably got people—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: I was like—

MIKE: All of a sudden you're calling me?

LAUREN: I don't know who this person is (STAMMERS) –and my phone like, froze, crashed you know, and uh yeah it was really wild, it was really overwhelming. You know, and the other piece of it though too is that people don’t know how to ask about trauma or you know, what to say and I was really fortunate in that you know, I had a couple of people whom I actually didn’t know very well who have since become you know, some of my very close friends um and they would just send a text once a day saying “checking in” those two words… can really carry someone far. Like they can really, like if you know someone who is going through something and you have no idea what to say, you don’t know if you should ask, they might not want to talk about it but maybe they do “checking in” is really great. A single emoji heart every morning, goes a long way. (STAMMERS) Like they’re such small things um, but to know that there was a place I can turn – a person I could turn to…

MIKE: Yeah.

LAUREN: Um, and the other thing is to trust your instinct, if someone feels safe, lean into it. If something feels uncomfortable it’s probably because it is uncomfortable. Listen to that too.

MIKE: Have you spoken to the woman who was in the memo as in regards to?

LAUREN: Yeah we’ve spoken since (STAMMERS) and you know, I think um, it’s been good, reconnecting has been healing too.

MIKE: So, um I met Harvey Weinstein a few times. I met him at a client’s house. He was really friendly to me. And then I met him—

LAUREN: He can be lovely.

MIKE: Yeah really like I was like—

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: This guy’s so nice (STAMMERS) I met him at a party and he was just really rude. I remember people walking away after –like that guy’s really rude, like a really rude person and I'm not looking to work in Hollywood.

LAUREN: Right.

MIKE: I didn’t know a whole lot about him… and then what’s interesting is once all this became a crisis um, I actually got a call a few times to work with him because—

LAUREN: In what capacity?

MIKE: He was seeking treatment…

LAUREN: Yup.

MIKE: Seeking treatment for sex addiction uh they (STAMMERS) the person that called because they needed someone to kind of oversee uh, and advise it and money did not appear to be an issue (STAMMERS) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Jekyll and Hyde of it all.

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) I’m not the right guy. This isn’t the right fit. (STAMMERS) It’s almost like choose integrity and thank God (STAMMERS) I made that decision—

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: I would have been dragged to all sorts of shit. You know what I mean? ‘Cause I didn’t realize I got the call about it.

LAUREN: That's—

MIKE: Until I watched the documentary.

LAUREN: Yeah.

(OVERLAPS)

MIKE: I knew one of the women…

LAUREN: Yup.

MIKE: … from…

LAUREN: Hmm.

MIKE: …the past and then I suddenly went, oh my God…

LAUREN: I got that call.

MIKE: I got that call.

LAUREN: I used to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sex therapist office and like do work, like we’ve come from a meeting, I’d sit there. He’d like, go in, you working?

MIKE: In front of the sex therapist?

LAUREN: Yeah like I’d be sitting out there doing work, and I was an executive.

MIKE: So he was going to a sex therapist and you would be sitting in there?

LAUREN: Yeah like we would be going to a meeting and he would have this appointment in the middle –like I didn’t actually know what it was for a while and then (STAMMERS) just looked up the names on the building you know, in New York City and Google who was there and I –oh that makes sense. (STAMMERS) I would literally, like if this was your office, I would be sitting right on the other side of that door and you know, it’s like (STAMMERS) I was an executive and the reality is too if I wasn’t an executive I shouldn’t have had to sit there.

MIKE: Awkward.

LAUREN: Yeah, no kidding. I remember once like, the paparazzi were following us. This was in 2015when a really brave woman went to SVU and um NYPD and you know, there’s a lot of news surrounding and the paparazzi was following us (STAMMERS) we went into the building of the you know, sex addiction therapist and all I could think to myself was if the paparazzi just Google’d like the name’ on the building’s register, they would have a really good story you know.

MIKE: And did he ever talk to you about it—

LAUREN: No

MIKE: …like after therapy, like good therapy—

LAUREN: No. (STAMMERS) Absolutely not, No. I don’t think he even knew I knew.

MIKE: And was it weird (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LAUREN: Yeah. I mean, look… I don’t think his people assumed their boss is raping someone behind closed doors. I think people are more likely to assume that someone is having an affair and that their personal life is not your business.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) and that’s where (UNINTELLIGIBLE) gotta keep a ton of secrets.

LAUREN: Yeah. Secrets and also the sense of decorum you know, like even if I’m treated unprofessional I need to maintain my professionalism. (STAMMERS) that’s expected of me and I expect that of the work environment. You know, and (STAMMERS) you know, his personal life is not my business because I’m a professional. You’re a human, period. Like point blank you're a human. So you know, decency and kindness, lead with that and (STAMMERS) you know, like lead with that.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) crying, as you talk about it clearly this is a universal feeling especially in entertainment.

LAUREN: Well when I see someone crying I generally start crying too so I'm on the tipping point but also makes me feel less alone (STAMMERS) oh they went through what I went through. They understand this is important to both of us and it makes me glad –like not that you're crying but it’s you know, it’s um—

MIKE: And with your girlfriends (STAMMERS) I know one of your girlfriends is my literary agent—

LAUREN: Can I –best human on earth.

MIKE: Yeah she--

LAUREN: Can I just take a moment to brag about Lacey?

MIKE: Yeah. Lacey—

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: Lacey Lynch is an unbelievable person.

MIKE: Yeah, unbelievable.

LAUREN: Lacey and I met initially through work and um, we were connected right away but I did no know her super well and for whatever reason of the 500 and some odd text I got a phone call (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this is where I'm like you know, God, or if you want to call it the universe or whatever it is you have faith you will be given exactly what you need and who you need to get through something because of all people in the world that Lacey was one of five that I responded to and she became one of the people everyday tracking and calling, don’t have to call me back, just saying hi and here. I mean, she really got in there with me and my other very close friends said to me I remember she was like, I don’t know what to say and I’m worried I'll say the wrong thing and I never want to ask you about it because I don’t want to upset you and bring it up but I also want to know what you're feeling, what you're going through and that kind of opened up the space where I could be like there isn’t the right thing to say. I’m scared to tell you what I’m feeling, I’m scared of it and I’m also in like such a place of heightened sensitivity that like you could say something that’s perfectly fine and actually like textbook what you could say and I might snap at you ‘cause I feel really trapped right now and –and yeah it was by continuing to talk about it that I became un-trapped and you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you know, (STAMMERS) I’m about to like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) speech –so I’m gonna refrain myself—

(LAUGHTER)

LAUREN: Starting to count my (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these are the people that got me through (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the world should know but um, (STAMMERS) but yeah no they see (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I mean Lacey was supporting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and carrying the torch for sexual harassment I mean… years –and before I wrote my memo (STAMMERS) far more than four years ago.

MIKE: Yeah and she’s tenacious.

LAUREN: Yeah she is.

(LAUGHTER)

LAUREN: She's the best, yeah.

MIKE: Yeah.

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: What was your reaction to like you know, being so feeble now and the kind of uh character that it appeared to be out there of him being weak now and—

LAUREN: Power is power, like power is power, he still has it, he still has money. He did things to women’s lives that have cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars that they do not have in therapy. The luxury of being able to afford to go to sex addiction therapy.

MIKE: Yeah.

LAUREN: (STAMMERS)

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: Actually motivated (UNINTELLIGIBLE) (STAMMERS) like it’s the difference between optic of doing the work and actually doing the work. –Like people in his position are looking for the optic.

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: They're not looking to actually dig in because they would have dug in, in the first place.

LAUREN: Meanwhile there are people you’ve left (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who don’t have any other option but then to find a way to do the work ‘cause they need to be able to survive you know, and live with themselves and wake up in the morning.

MIKE: Yeah. Did you uh –I'm curious when you were working for him like… or even after, were there times when you would see like a movie that he created and you were just like, this is so hypocritical like why on earth –

LAUREN: Oh yes! Oh yes uh I mean the great irony is I think it was a year prior of me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the memo he had just released a documentary called the hunting ground—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: All about campus assault, and on the way it could be treated as a quote on quote hunting ground.

MIKE: Wow.

LAUREN: And there is irony to it right? It’s a weird thing to hold that somebody crafted a release strategy for this brilliant documentary that's incredibly important and was perpetrating the same thing and now and I think that's what's confusing about all of this stuff you know, people are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people are not all one thing but… cruelty, violence and a lack of integrity can and should outweigh everything else that you are.

MIKE: Say that again.

LAUREN: Like people are not all one thing, right? Um like I’m trying to think of an example, like, someone can you know, be a really great person in one way and a terrible person in another right? Um, I could not be a morning person but like to get up early right? We all have these inherent contradictions and I think there's this prepensely to see things as black and white right? If someone is a devoted family man, they can’t be you know, reckless financially. If someone is a father, they can’t also be a rapist, right? So that—we have these kinds of black and white areas where we try to understand who people are and no one’s that simple. Harvey did invest in some really worthy causes; he did release some really important movies. (STAMMERS) irony is too soft of a word—

MIKE: Right.

LAUREN: For half of it you know um and yet I also think that even with this sort of both and where people can be both things (UNINTELLIGIBLE) something else even within the both end of somebody um when there is a piece of you that takes the form of cruelty and violence and abuse and building your power and rendering other people powerless um that should outweigh every other part that you are –

MIKE: Hm.

LAUREN: And you know, to your question about um, you know, what I will confidentially call a charade in terms of that walker with the tennis ball because you know, multimillionaire needs tennis balls to be relatable let’s be honest.

MIKE: Hm.

LAUREN: Um, and uh

(UNINTELLIGIBLE STAMMER)

MIKE: what were the tennis balls?

LAUREN: Oh you know, how you have them on the little bottoms of walkers—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LAUREN: Yeah and it’s like you know, there is some article that at some point was like he can afford gliders. I didn’t know what gliders were up until that moment but huh, that’s interesting –frankly it’s an insult to people that do end tennis balls on their walkers how dare you. Um and secondly um, the funny is though like I read about one article and learned what gliders were and, and then my focus really shifted, my focus really hasn’t’ been you know, throughout the trial how Harvey presented –himself. It's –and certainly there are things his lawyer (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said that made my blood boil but my focus wasn’t even only on that you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my focus was on the strength of these women.

MIKE: Hm –and did –once the verdict was read did you start to feel different?

LAUREN: Yeah actually. You know, this is the first time I’m speaking publicly (STAMMERS) in any sort of public capacity about my own assault and I think something in the verdict (UNINTELLIGIBLE) me a little bit from everything that happened. I feel safer. I feel safer, and in that sense of safety I feel more comfortable like acknowledging my own healing and what that entailed and what it took to get there. So yeah, did I feel different? Absolutely.

MIKE: Do you feel more um, a lot less paranoid?

LAUREN: Hmm yeah within reason –I think it’s less sort of paranoid but I got to appoint during where I was you know, where I kind of got to this point where I was like I can’t predict the verdict, I can’t control the verdict, I have to figure out a way to be safe again.

MIKE: Did you go to the –

LAUREN: I didn’t, I didn’t but I have to be able to feel safe again—

MIKE: Hm.

LAUREN: Like I can’t live my life looking over my shoulder, the same thing with dating after assault, I can’t spend my life um, I don’t want to spend my life without a partner and I can’t um… live in fear. I can’t (STAMMERS) if I live in fear I end up giving up so much of myself.

MIKE: Mhm.

LAUREN: Um, Yeah.

MIKE: I got it.

LAUREN: Sorry.

MIKE: So when –

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: When you um… were going through this and spending money on attorneys, spending money on therapy.

LAUREN: Therapy.

MIKE: Um…

LAUREN: So I go twice a week, I think it’s wonderful; I commend it to everybody like if you can't afford it there are some great things online –

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: You know.

MIKE: And what has therapy done for you?

LAUREN: It’s given me a place to take the things I’m scared to acknowledge…

MIKE: Hm.

LAUREN: To digest them, process them um… and figure out how to like weave into who I am.

MIKE: And so do you feel –so throughout this whole process there's different phases of—

LAUREN: Yeah, completely, completely um you know, and I think at the beginning a lot of it was just uh a lot of therapy was to getting through the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of everything flying at my face with the legal bills, with the press, with publicity all of that stuff and I think like one of the beauties of therapy is that it gave me a place to put everything. So if you know, if I (STAMMERS) received a subpoena and saw my name in four articles and read on the same day that you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) file I –and I knew I was going to therapy tomorrow or three days from now, it helped me –again it comes back to that word safe and voice, it helped me feel safe because I had a place that I could go to figure out how to speak about the things I was going through.

MIKE: Hm. Has your writing changed since all this has happened?

LAUREN: Yeah for sure, for sure – what I’m learning is that if I'm angry, I’m a very strong writer, like I get very concise, if I’m trying to say something, I go on and on (STAMMERS) and it’s terrible. I read a lot of poems yeah I read a lot of poetry, that helped me too like poetry I love because you know you have things that happen around you that you can't really fully make sense out of.

MIKE: Hm.

LAUREN: Even the past two years I can’t wrap my head around you know, everything that’s happened and so you experience these feelings first you know, like I experienced these feelings first and then my brain kicks in to try to make sense of all of it. And I like poems because the words can just exist in feeling.

MIKE: Hm.

LAUREN: You know they don’t have to cogent, they don’t—

MIKE: Right.

LAUREN: …have to be a narrative, it could just be the fact at the moment.

MIKE: Have you read any poems that they have that are in regards to everything—

LAUREN: Yeah you want to hear one?

MIKE: Can I hear one?

LAUREN: Really?

MIKE: It’s in your phone?

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: I love poems!

LAUREN: Really?

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) too!

LAUREN: Ex—

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) poem party.

(LAUGHING)

LAUREN: Honestly like sorry to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ends up listening, I could easily read poems to you for an hour so be careful what you wish for. Um let me see if I have it here on my phone um… yes so I wrote this, I was on plane, (STAMMERS) one thing I did a lot when I um (STAMMERS) was going through this I lived in L.A. and I left (STAMMERS) every weekend I could (UNINTELLIGIBLE) camping out at a friends somewhere that felt different by myself that the world –like my world was going to be bigger, had more things in it than what I was really going through, and so it was (STAMMERS) San Francisco to stay with you know, my best friend and um, the day I was flying back to L.A. the attorney general's office in New York filed a civil suit in the New York supreme court. So this is the poem I wrote. It’s called, from a plane on Harvey. The dotted --like stars below sang sharply in their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) outside my window sits stately fixed in navy sky and crowns the last two days and nights for all sisters not just several for suits were filed against devils tongue and was lifted for a moment (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stars we are a constellation that needs no name only the velvet stretch of justice, the soft (UNINTELLIGIBLE) integrity kneeling dutifully at horizons for all. A thousand pin pricked voices under (UNINTELLIGIBLE) man’s own brash electric light and finally the ancient sky safe harbor once again as witness born moves truth abused to truth abide. Moves darkest night to question day to righteous night.

MIKE: Hm. It’s beautiful.

LAUREN: Thanks. Um, but that’s how I feel about all this you know, it’s ---hard trauma is hard, I don't know if I’m allowed to swear but there's –it’s a lot of shit.

MIKE: Its fine –

LAUREN: It’s a lot of shit –

MIKE: Yeah.

LAUREN: A lot of fucked up stuff happens. I’m sure there will be more stuff like (STAMMERS) hopefully not –there’s been more shit that happens in my life um—

MIKE: Well look, I know—

LAUREN: But like—

MIKE: I know uh ‘cause another story –you again hundred of thousand of dollars in debt.

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: True?

LAUREN: Yeah.

(OVERLAPS)

MIKE: And so um, you know, I know that (STAMMERS) I turned the other way when Harvey was asking you know um, but indefinitely if you ever need life coach, group therapy –

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: Thank you.

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like you know, I have Cast Centers, any –

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: Thank you.

MIKE: It’s everything from—

LAUREN: Thank you

MIKE: Life, to trauma you can –

LAUREN: Thank you –

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: I love it!

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LAUREN: I love it! You are answering my prayers because I was just saying the other day to somebody that therapy should be more affordable so—Yeah thank—I really appreciate—

MIKE: We all – I mean—

(OVERLAPS)

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: That's the thing about healing and empowering ourselves and um you know, (STAMMERS) I found that you know, look I’m in recovery –

LAUREN: Mhm.

MIKE: I’m 18 years sober uh in May.

LAUREN: Mhm.

MIKE: And have gone through a lot of trauma myself and –

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: Um not being able to have a quick resource often can—

LAUREN: Yeah.

(OVERLAPS)

MIKE: (STAMMERS) like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) something—

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: And when we’re struggling financially—

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: Um, it really—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: Hard—

MIKE: Priority list like okay I need to pay my rent, food—

LAUREN: Mhm.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) socialize (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: Usually what happens in terms of like um, mental health we start to –

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: Right. And so—

LAUREN: Yeah.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) trust me I'm not saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE) therapist—

LAUREN: (LAUGHS) No.

MIKE: anytime—

LAUREN: Thank you

MIKE: We got all these—

LAUREN: Thank you

MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) craft right?

(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)

MIKE: Like, that poem like sparked that (STAMMERS) …the constellation of safety –

LAUREN: Yeah. Well that's it isn’t it? Fucked up stuff happened but that –that constellation exists.

MIKE: Yeah.

LAUREN: It does exist.

(OVERLAPS)

MIKE: It does.

LAUREN: It does exist and like, you have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other until like you start to see the stars.

MIKE: Well I’m in the stars with you.

LAUREN: Stop.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) I mean that and I really –

LAUREN: Yeah

MIKE: And I really appreciate you um coming on the podcast –

LAUREN: Thank you.

MIKE: ….and being open about everything that’s happened.

LAUREN: Thank you, yeah.

MIKE: (STAMMERS) IS there anything else you would like to say while you have…

LAUREN: That I promise like when you go through something hard like (STAMMERS) to anyone listening, you won’t be who you are before and you will mourn that person but I also having gone through what I've gone through can sit here and say wholeheartedly you will be okay again, you will feel whole again and so when you question that you know, hang on… ‘cause you’ll get there.

MIKE: Thank you, Lauren.

LAUREN: Thank you.

MIKE: Thank you so much for listening to Lauren O’Connor and I speak about a very important issue and I’m so grateful that we were able to discuss it today uh we’re gonna have more discussions like this in the next few weeks so click to subscribe, download, contact me on social media and let me know what you thought of today’s show and lets stay in touch and keep making this world a better place.

(END OF PODCAST)