As more and more victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse come forward and share their stories of being victimized, the secrecy and forced silence these victims have suffered with for years are finally being ripped open and exposed. Many of the accused perpetrators who have been exposed are high-profile figures from the worlds of new media, entertainment, and politics.
As a Pennsylvania lawyer who has successfully represented many sexual abuse victims, we are heartened by the way so many victims are finally feeling they are able to come forward and out the person who assaulted them.
One of the common themes that have emerged from many of these stories is that many of the victims were pressured into signing non-disclosure agreements, often as a condition of their employment. These documents forced the victims into keeping quiet about what happened to them.
What Is a Non-Disclosure Agreement Used For?
It is not uncommon for an employer to ask an employee or contractor to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This usual reason is to protect the company because the employees and contractors have access to proprietary systems, trade secrets, and other information which could put the company in a vulnerable position should this information get into the hands of the competitors.
What we have learned with the recent cases that have been propelled by the #metoo movement is that non-disclosure agreements can also be used to cover up inappropriate – sometimes criminal – acts committed by the employer. Many of the victims who have come forward have shared that they had signed non-disclosure agreements which made them afraid about speaking out about the abuse they were forced to endure by the very individuals who had forced them to sign the agreements.
Another common theme that has emerged is that many of these victims were also forced to sign confidentiality agreements for any financial compensation they received through settlements with their abusers. Victims could not speak out and warn other potential victims because of the confidential agreement they signed. This allowed the alleged abusers to continue to sexually assault other victims.
Some states have passed laws that say that non-disclosure agreements which are signed in conjunction with civil settlements are invalid if the settlement is for potential crimes such as felony sexual assault and child sex abuse.
Unfortunately, even if the agreement isn’t enforceable, many victims are still fearful that the agreements can be enforceable and could put them in jeopardy of legal retribution from their abuser. And so they remain silent.
Call a Pennsylvania Sexual Abuse Lawyer for Help Today
If you or someone in your family has been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual harassment, you may be able to bring legal action against the person who abused you. Contact a Pennsylvania lawyer to represent sexual abuse victims from Wieand Law Firm to set up a confidential free case evaluation. We can discuss what legal options you may have and how we can help.