Zelda Perkins, the former assistant to Harvey Weinstein who accused him of attempting to rape a colleague of theirs 19 years ago, sat down with BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday in her first televised interview.
Over the course of her sit-down, she said a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) prevented her from speaking out about the “repulsive monster” and “master manipulator” sooner, and called for a change in the law around gag order, which she says enables the rich and powerful to cover up sexual assault.
In October, Perkins — who worked for Miramax Films in the UK in the 1990s — broke the NDA she signed two decades ago in an interview with The Financial Times, where she first alleged Weinstein had assaulted a friend of hers at the Venice Film Festival in 1998. (Weinstein has previously denied all accusations of sexual assault against him).
“The last 19 years have been distressing, where I’ve not been allowed to speak, where I’ve not been allowed to be myself,” Perkins said.
She explained that she signed the NDA in 1998 when she was 24 and received a £125,000 ($168,000 U.S.) buyout — though was never allowed to receive a copy of the agreement.
“It’s not just distressing for me, but for lots of women who have not been able to own their past, and for many of them, their trauma. Although the process I went through was legal, it was immoral,” Perkins said.
“There were a couple of occasions where I made attempts to circumnavigate my agreement, but it was almost impossible for me,” she continued. “I understand that non-disclosure agreements have a place in society for both sides, but it’s really important that legislation is changed around how these agreements are regulated. You cannot have a legal document that protects a criminal. This isn’t someone who sold you a dodgy car.
You can’t change the Harvey Weinsteins of the world — there are always going to be people that follow the darker side of their character — but if the rules and laws that we have to protect ourselves enable that, there’s no point in having them.”
Elsewhere in the 23-minute interview, Perkins recounted seeing her unnamed colleague after Weinstein’s alleged attempted rape at the Venice Film Festival.
“She was shaking, very distressed, and clearly in shock,” Perkins said. “She didn’t want anybody to know and was absolutely terrified of the consequences. I spoke with her and tried to calm her down before confronting Harvey face to face.”
“We returned to the UK and I spoke to my only senior in the Miramax offices and she suggested I got a lawyer so we both resigned from the company, [feeling] constructively dismissed because of his behavior,” Perkins recounted. “The lawyers made it clear that we didn’t have many options because we hadn’t gone to the police when we were in Venice and we didn’t have any physical evidence.”
They both then signed the gag order feeling it would be impossible to take on the film mogul themselves. “Ultimately, it would be two under-25 women’s word against Harvey Weinstein, Miramax and essentially the Disney company,” Perkins said.
Giving them comfort was the fact that the gag order insisted Weinstein would have to attend therapy sessions — though Perkins said she was never told whether or not Weinstein did.
Looking back, Perkins admitted that she knew of Weinstein’s reputation before he was hired, but took the job anyway.
“Everyone now sees Harvey as this repulsive monster, which he was and is on one hand, but what is interesting and isn’t brought forward is that he was an extremely exciting, brilliant stimulating person to be around,” Perkins said. “He was a master manipulator and his moods changed very quickly and you never knew if you were his confidante or going to be screamed at.”
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In response to Perkins’ BBC interview, Paul Tweed issued a statement on behalf of Weinstein denying the allegations. “Mr. Weinstein categorically denies engaging in any non-consensual conduct or alleged threatening behavior and will seek the protection of the U.K. or Irish Courts if you proceed with the broadcast of these allegations,” the statement said, CBS News reported.
A representative has not yet responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Weinstein, 65, has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 60 women since The New York Times and The New Yorker documented decades of alleged sexual misconduct and sexual assault involving a number of women in detailed articles in October.
A spokesperson for Weinstein previously told PEOPLE in a statement that “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”