There are myriad reasons it is completely ridiculous to say that a person has reported being sexually assaulted “for attention,” and chief among them is the fact that, in work-related harassment incidents, higher-ups will generally go to astonishing lengths to make sure absolutely no one finds out that they employ at least one dirtbag and a whole cadre of flunkies to protect these dirtbags.
For example, two employees at Left Bank Pictures, which is responsible for The Crown, say that they were working on the Netflix series White Lines, when some truly horrific shit went down. After a work party, freelancer Holly Bourdillon says she was attacked in an edit room at the London Left Bank offices by her boss, executive producer Chris Croucher, according to The Guardian:
“In [an email to executives,] Bourdillon described being groped and forcibly kissed by Croucher, and him chasing her around the office space while masturbating. “I was so scared,” she wrote. “‘I wanted to cry … I was scared he was going to rape me.’”
Croucher has since pleaded guilty to sexual and common assault in a criminal case brought by both Bourdillon and another freelancer, Laura Johnston. But the Guardian piece focuses on an underexplored topic around reporting sexual assault: the hostile environments often created by companies who half-assedly address these complaints.
After assaulting two women, Croucher was allowed to “resign with notice,” meaning he was paid his salary during this notice period, allowed to keep his health insurance, and basically keep up the appearance of parting ways on good terms. Bourdillon and Johnston say they were left at the company to listen to co-workers express their sympathies for their abuser as higher-ups instructed them to keep their assaults a secret. In response to an email from Johnston about the uncomfortable environment created by a staff lamenting what a good guy their abuser had been and requesting that the company simply disclose he had been fired for misconduct, Left Bank’s chief operating officer, Grace Wilson, wrote:
“We agree with you that we do not need to say he has resigned but instead can say that he has left and/or is no longer working on the production and there does not need to be a further explanation for his leaving. If asked, we can say that we cannot comment further as to the reasons, but we would not go beyond that to refer to conduct or inappropriate behaviour.”
Johnston and Bourdillon also told The Guardian that a meeting to discuss the incidents of assault with executives began with praise of Croucher’s performance as a producer and included a lecture about not drinking with colleagues after work. Both women left the company due to the compounded trauma they say that they experienced after the company seemingly did the bare minimum to address the problem, though Left Bank did cover the costs of therapy for both women, which seems like the least they could do while also continuing to pay out Croucher’s salary and benefits.
The story is a terrible one, and unfortunately, a very common one, of an abuser’s feelings and “reputation” mattering more than a victim’s well-being, as Johnston rightly pointed out to The Guardian:
“Johnston said she had spent most of the last year feeling angry at how Left Bank handled the matter. ‘I think they just thought of him the whole way through. They treated him as the victim and failed to acknowledge that he had committed multiple crimes that evening. It felt like they allowed him to save face professionally.’”