Careers generally suffer when women speak out, actor Yael Stone told the ABC’s 7:30. And while she’s factored such consequences into her own decision to do so, she believes “it’s worth it.”
Speaking with Leigh Sales last night from New York, Stone detailed allegations against her former and once better known colleague Geoffrey Rush.
The star of the US drama series Orange Is The New Black has told the ABC and The New York Times that during the production of a 2010 Sydney play Rush sent her inappropriate messages, danced naked in front her and touched her in a “sensual manner”, in a series of incidents she said made her feel “uncomfortable and compromised”.
Rush denies the allegations. In a statement to the New York Time he said the allegations are incorrect and have been taken out of context. He said he deeply regrets causing Stone any distress, that it was never his intention, and that “clearly Yael has been upset on occasion by the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work.” The full New York Times statement is published here.
Stone was in her twenties at the time the alleged incidents occurred during the production of The Diary of Madman at the Belvoir St theatre, while Rush was in his late fifties.
Stone told the ABC how powerless she felt at the time, saying that the production was very much Rush’s show and that they were working around his performance. She noted her inexperience at the time, compared to Rush who was an internationally-acclaimed star, who had “pretty much won every award you can win.”
“I didn’t know how to respond to someone who was so much my senior, who has so much power in the industry.
“The thought of not responding to one of his text messages and coming in the next day feeling that I’d let him down, that I’d disappointed him, was not an option for me.”
Stone detailed more on her fears regarding the consequences of speaking up: if the show would need to be canceled, tickets refunded and how they could possibly “boot him” and keep her when “no one is there to see me!” She said she didn’t want to offend Rush, due to fears it would affect her next performance and her career. She said she saw him as a friend and a respected colleague. A fun, charming man, and that her compliance back in 2010 might make him confused by her going public now.
Meanwhile, Stone told the New York Times she is also concerned about Australia’s defamation laws. The piece notes the considerable cost of speaking out in Australia in the #MeToo era, particularly compared to the United States, with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins telling the publication: “The use of defamation cases against women with sexual harassment complaints is having a huge chilling effect.”
Stone said she is speaking up now — and said she emailed Rush in 2017 outlining how uncomfortable his behaviour made her feel — in the hope it will encourage other young performers to speak out. She also has a baby girl, and wants to be able to tell her “it was hard, but I did it anyway.”
“Now, I think that’s a really important step to stand up and say no. But I think we would do well to have sympathy for what that huge gearshift feels like on the other side.
“The context of a working environment and an enormous power imbalance is impossible to ignore.”