Hollywood kicked off #MeToo. Now SAG-AFTRA is making it easier for union members to report sexual harassment

April 29, 2021, 7:00 AM UTC
The SAG-AFTRA member app or web portal now offers resources on what qualifies as sexual harassment, plus the option to file a report with the union.
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Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, SAG-AFTRA has been hearing from its members that they want an easier way to report experiences of sexual harassment. Almost four years later, the union that represents Hollywood performers and broadcast journalists is introducing an app feature that will allow actors to inform their union representatives—anonymously, if they wish—of misconduct on set and to connect with resources for support.

“A lot of the time, what people want is to get this out,” says David White, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director. “They can just put down the information and get the details out of their mind.”

When performers go to their existing SAG-AFTRA member app or web portal, they will now find resources answering questions about what qualifies as sexual harassment; the option to file a report, anonymously or with their identity attached, to the union; resources for legal assistance and trauma support; and directions on how to file reports with outside agencies, including law enforcement. Members already brought such questions to SAG-AFTRA, but union leadership hopes the app will make the process of making complaints less intimidating.

The SAG-AFTRA member app or web portal now offers resources on what qualifies as sexual harassment, plus the option to file a report anonymously or with their identity attached.
Courtesy of SAG-AFTRA

As a union covering an entire industry, SAG-AFTRA is well positioned to provide support for survivors of harassment across workplaces. Unlike other apps providing platforms for workers to report sexual harassment or assault, companies don’t need to opt in for their employees to have access. While SAG-AFTRA emphasizes that employers—such as Hollywood studios—have the ultimate responsibility for providing safe working environments, the union still has a platform to support its members if they experience abuse.

The app is only intended for members to share experiences of sexual harassment—not other kinds of workplace abuse. Members can use it to report harassment by anyone in a workplace—whether that’s a director or a fellow actor and SAG-AFTRA member.

Building a new profession

The new technology arrives as SAG-AFTRA is taking steps to make film and television sets safer work environments in other ways, too. The union is introducing a training accreditation program and registry for intimacy coordinators, the professionals who guide on-camera sex scenes and nudity.

More and more productions have started employing intimacy coordinators over the past few years—but the profession has so far been relatively ad hoc, with no formal training programs for the work. White says the union has fielded calls from productions asking if people applying for the positions—often intimacy directors who have worked on stage productions rather than films, or choreographers and other movement professionals—are qualified for the work. “It was the Wild, Wild West,” adds SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.

SAG-AFTRA’s concern about proper accreditation of intimacy coordinators is largely spurred by television, where “hyper-exposed” work has become more common, say the union leaders. “Our job as a union is to make sure that our members feel safe, that they’re protected, that they have a voice,” says Carteris. “So this is a really perfect place for us to support the needs of our members.”

While the union can’t require productions to employ intimacy coordinators—that step would need to be agreed on through collective bargaining—the hope is that by providing a registry of people qualified to do this work, more productions will find coordinators, and more professionals will become interested in training for the job.

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