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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "sexual harassment"

#MeToo Cases’ New Legal Battleground: Defamation Lawsuits

Westlake Legal Group 00defamation-metoo-judd-facebookJumbo #MeToo Cases’ New Legal Battleground: Defamation Lawsuits Zervos, Summer Weinstein, Harvey Trump, Donald J Suits and Litigation (Civil) Statutes of Limitations sexual harassment Sex Crimes New York State Moore, Roy S Miltenberg, Andrew T Libel and Slander Heard, Amber Giuffre, Virginia Roberts Freedom of Speech and Expression Elliott, Stephen Donegan, Moira Dershowitz, Alan M Depp, Johnny Cosby, Bill Corfman, Leigh #MeToo Movement

Ashley Judd was one of the first women to attach her name to accusations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, but like many of the claims that followed, her account of intimidating sexual advances was too old to bring Mr. Weinstein to court over.

Then a legal window opened to her. After reading about a director’s claim that Mr. Weinstein’s studio, Miramax, had described Ms. Judd as a “nightmare to work with,” she sued the producer for defamation in 2018.

Mr. Weinstein’s rape trial in Manhattan, which began with jury selection last week, is a spectacle not only because he is the avatar of the #MeToo era, but also because it is one of the few sexual assault cases to surface with allegations recent enough to result in criminal charges.

So, unable to pursue justice directly, women and men on both sides of #MeToo are embracing the centuries-old tool of defamation lawsuits, opening an alternative legal battleground for accusations of sexual misconduct.

While the facts of the cases vary, the plaintiffs are generally using defamation law not just for its usual purpose — to dissuade damaging speech about them — but also as a tool to enlist the courts to endorse their version of disputed events.

This year, key verdicts are expected in defamation cases involving President Trump, the Senate candidate Roy Moore and the actor Johnny Depp, and lawyers are watching the proceedings closely.

In some cases, women are basing their suits on recent statements in which the men they accused called them liars; or in Ms. Judd’s case, on a disparaging statement she said she was not aware of until the director, Peter Jackson, revealed it in a 2017 interview. Men like Mr. Depp are using defamation suits to fend off allegations from women, in his case, his ex-wife Amber Heard, who accused him of domestic abuse.

Courts have only begun to grapple with this #MeToo-inspired wave of defamation lawsuits, which are, in some cases, being brought because the statutes of limitations on sexual misconduct can be as short as one year, depending on the state and severity of the accusation. Those statutes are a bedrock legal concept designed to discourage people from being sued or imprisoned based on witness memories that may have eroded over the years.

The cases raise a swirl of issues, including the appropriate limits on freedom of speech; the power of social media, where an accusation can spread on platforms that vary in reliability and authority; and whether the statutes of limitations should be extended, as some states have already done.

Advocates on both sides are anxious. Lawyers for people accused of misconduct fear that a string of defamation victories for women will prevent men who believe they have been wrongly accused from freely defending themselves. At the same time, backers of the #MeToo movement fear that a spate of defamation cases against women will push victims back into the shadows.

“The next year is going to be very interesting when it comes to the law of defamation,” said Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer representing Virginia Giuffre, who said she was a victim of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation and accused Mr. Epstein’s ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell and the lawyer Alan Dershowitz of being part of it. After they issued statements saying she was lying, she sued them for defamation. Mr. Dershowitz has countersued Ms. Giuffre for defamation; Ms. Maxwell settled in 2017.

“We’re going to see a wave of opinions that will shape that landscape quite a bit,” Ms. McCawley said.

Several cases involve big names in politics and entertainment. Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant, filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Trump for his comments during his presidential campaign that her accusations of unwanted kissing and groping were fabricated. The president has argued that he cannot be sued in state court while in office, an issue that is likely headed for New York’s highest court. Its decision will be closely watched by E. Jean Carroll, who filed a similar claim against Mr. Trump after he said that she had lied about his raping her to increase sales of her new book.

Leigh Corfman, who accused Mr. Moore of touching her sexually when she was 14, sued him for defamation after he called her story false, malicious and “politically motivated.” That trial is expected to start this year in Alabama. Mr. Moore lost his Senate race in 2017 after accusations surfaced from Ms. Corfman and other women.

And last year, at least eight women reached settlements with Bill Cosby’s insurance company to end their defamation lawsuits. They filed them after his representatives accused them of lying when they said Mr. Cosby had sexually assaulted them decades ago.

At the same time, defamation suits are a go-to strategy for accused men trying to preserve their reputations. Mr. Depp’s lawsuit is expected to go to trial this summer in Virginia unless the judge dismisses it. And a judge in Brooklyn is considering whether to allow or throw out a lawsuit filed by the writer Stephen Elliott against Moira Donegan, the creator of a widely circulated list of men accused of sexual misconduct that included him.

Mr. Elliott, 48, who denied having assaulted anyone, said in an interview that after his essay about the accusation was rebuffed by mainstream news outlets and with his career in shambles, he saw a defamation lawsuit as his only option.

“What would you do if you had been falsely accused of rape?” he said.

There are lower-profile cases moving through the courts, too. Thirty-three out of 193 cases that the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund supports involve defending workers who came forward about sexual harassment and were then sued for defamation, said Sharyn Tejani, the fund’s director.

For many plaintiffs, a benefit of suing for defamation is the opportunity to air the facts of what happened years ago, even if they are unable to sue for harassment or assault.

“In order to prove you’re a truth teller, you have to prove it happened,” said Joseph Cammarata, who represented seven Cosby accusers. “This is a direct way to get at the person who assaulted you.”

In Ms. Judd’s case, it could lead to a hearing over her account of visiting Mr. Weinstein’s room at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel one morning in late 1996 or early 1997, expecting a professional breakfast. She said that Mr. Weinstein, wearing a bathrobe, had requested to massage her or for her to watch him shower, and that she had refused.

Ms. Judd has argued that Miramax called her a “nightmare to work with” in retaliation for the hotel encounter. Miramax’s alleged conversation with Mr. Jackson occurred more than 20 years ago. The statute of limitations for a defamation claim in California is just one year, but the judge let the case go forward, saying that it was plausible that Ms. Judd would only learn about the conversation through Mr. Jackson’s 2017 interview. (The judge threw out Ms. Judd’s sexual harassment claim, saying it did not fall within the scope of California law.)

Mr. Weinstein has not directly disputed the allegation that Miramax said Ms. Judd was a “nightmare to work with” but has argued that his attempts to land her major acting roles later on showed that he was not trying to hinder her career. He has denied having any nonconsensual sexual encounters, including with the two women at the center of his rape trial in Manhattan. On Monday, prosecutors in Los Angeles announced that he had been charged with rape and sexual battery in connection with encounters with two women there.

Compared with some other countries, in the United States a defamation case is relatively difficult to win, because of a standard set by the Supreme Court to protect freedom of the press. If the plaintiff is a public figure, as many are, he or she must prove the statement was both false and made with “reckless disregard” for whether it was true.

In countries without the same high bar, including China, Australia and France, men have won high-profile defamation cases against women or news outlets that published their stories.

In the United States, a court must also find that the speech in question is based in fact and not purely opinion. Part of Mr. Trump’s argument against Ms. Zervos is that his statements were “fiery rhetoric, hyperbole and opinion” that are protected by the Constitution. Mr. Moore has made a similar argument. In denying Mr. Trump’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, a judge wrote that he knew exactly what transpired between him and Ms. Zervos, so his calling her a liar was akin to an assertion of fact.

The public airing of #MeToo stories over the past two years has made these suits noticeable, but the strategy is not entirely new. In 1994, Paula Jones sued President Bill Clinton alleging that he had exposed himself to her when he was governor of Arkansas. One portion of the lawsuit accused him and his associates of defaming Ms. Jones by characterizing her as a liar.

A judge dismissed the claim, writing that the comments were “mere denials of the allegations and the questioning of plaintiff’s motives.” Mr. Clinton settled the rest of the suit for $850,000, without admitting wrongdoing; his lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky during the Jones lawsuit led to his impeachment.

But a more recent ruling, by New York’s highest court, has given hope to lawyers representing women. The court in 2014 revived a lawsuit filed by two men against Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse University basketball coach, who had accused the two men of lying when they said one of Mr. Boeheim’s assistants, Bernie Fine, had abused them as children. The defamation lawsuit was settled in 2015. (Mr. Fine lost his job, but after an investigation, he was not charged with a crime.)

The decision made the New York court system an attractive place to file this kind of lawsuit, said Mariann Wang, who represented the plaintiffs in that case, and Ms. Zervos until recently.

Since the #MeToo movement took off, a number of states have lengthened the statutes of limitations for sexual assault claims, meaning future victims may have less need to rely on defamation lawsuits.

But those suits remain the only legal option for people like Therese Serignese, who said Mr. Cosby gave her pills backstage at a show in Las Vegas in 1976, when she was 19. The next memory she had was waking up to realize that she was being sexually violated.

She joined a lawsuit in 2015 asserting that representatives for Mr. Cosby had defamed her and other women by calling stories like theirs “fantastical” and “past the point of absurdity.” Mr. Cosby’s insurance company settled the lawsuit in April, about a year after he was convicted of sexual assault.

“My point was to make him accountable,” Ms. Serignese, 62, said. “Put him out there and make him work to prove that I’m not telling the truth. Because I knew I was telling the truth.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer Stepping Down Amid Investigation

Westlake Legal Group 10drummond3-facebookJumbo Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer Stepping Down Amid Investigation sexual harassment Google Inc Drummond, David C Computers and the Internet Appointments and Executive Changes Alphabet Inc

SAN FRANCISCO — David Drummond, the chief legal officer of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and one of its most senior executives, is resigning amid an investigation into his relationships with women at the company.

In an email sent to employees at Google and Alphabet, Mr. Drummond, who joined Google in 2002, said he planned to leave Alphabet at the end of the month. He said that it was the “right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders” in light of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, announcing plans to step back from day-to-day roles at the company.

Some employees inside Google were dismayed that Mr. Drummond was not forced to leave after an article from The New York Times in 2018 that disclosed how the company handled sexual harassment complaints and inappropriate relationships of its top executives.

Mr. Drummond, who is 56, had an extramarital relationship with a woman who worked for him and recently married another woman from Google’s legal department.

Last year, a committee of independent directors from Alphabet’s board hired a law firm to investigate its handling of allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships by current and former executives as part of its legal defense against shareholder lawsuits over its handling of the matters, according to documents viewed by The Times.

Among the subjects in the inquiry are Mr. Drummond’s relationships with women at the company, according to the documents.

The departure of Mr. Drummond signals a changing of the guard for Alphabet. He was one of the longest-serving and influential executives at the company. As an outside lawyer for Wilson Sonsini, he helped draft the original incorporation papers for Google and later became the company’s first general counsel. He was instrumental in many of the company’s prominent and sometimes controversial moves, including the decision to exit the Chinese market in 2010.

His departure had been telegraphed in the last few months as he sold off most of his shares in Alphabet, unloading roughly $170 million worth of company stock from November to January.

Mr. Drummond faced additional scrutiny in August when Jennifer Blakely, a former senior contracts manager in Google’s legal department, published an essay on Medium about her relationship with him. She wrote about how Google forced her out of the legal department after the birth of their son made it impossible to the hide the relationship. Ms. Blakely was part of the Times article.

Her essay also said that Mr. Drummond had other extramarital relationships with women at the company after they split. At the time, Mr. Drummond said he had never started a relationship with “anyone else who was working at Google or Alphabet.”

In his farewell note, Mr. Drummond did not mention any of the claims.

“I know this company is in the best of hands, and I am excited for what the future holds for Google, for Alphabet and for me,” he wrote.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer Stepping Down Amid Investigation

Westlake Legal Group 10drummond3-facebookJumbo Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer Stepping Down Amid Investigation sexual harassment Google Inc Drummond, David C Computers and the Internet Appointments and Executive Changes Alphabet Inc

SAN FRANCISCO — David Drummond, the chief legal officer of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and one of its most senior executives, is resigning amid an investigation into his relationships with women at the company.

In an email sent to employees at Google and Alphabet, Mr. Drummond, who joined Google in 2002 as its first general counsel, said he planned to leave Alphabet at the end of the month. He said that it was the “right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders” in light of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, announcing plans to step back from a day-to-day role at the company.

The continued employment of Mr. Drummond was a source of frustration for many Google employees in the aftermath of an article from The New York Times in 2018 that disclosed how the company handled sexual harassment complaints and inappropriate relationships of its top executives.

Mr. Drummond had an extramarital relationship with a woman who worked for him and recently married another woman from Google’s legal department. A committee of independent directors from Alphabet’s board hired a law firm to investigate its handling of allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships by current and former executives.

Alphabet’s board is investigating allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships by current and former executives as part of its legal defense against shareholder lawsuits over its handling of the matters, according to documents viewed by The Times.

The internet giant’s board formed a special litigation committee of independent directors this year and hired the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore to investigate the claims made in one such shareholder lawsuit, according to the documents.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Megyn Kelly Talks About Roger Ailes and ‘Bombshell’ in YouTube Video

Westlake Legal Group 09KELLY-05-facebookJumbo Megyn Kelly Talks About Roger Ailes and ‘Bombshell’ in YouTube Video Television sexual harassment News and News Media Kelly, Megyn Huddy, Juliet Fox News Channel Bombshell (Movie) Ailes, Roger E #MeToo Movement

Megyn Kelly has kept her distance from “Bombshell,” a Hollywood awards contender that presents her as a key figure in exposing sexual harassment at Fox News. Until now.

On Thursday, the former Fox News anchor posted an online video, nearly 30 minutes long, that shows her watching the film in the company of other women who said they were sexually harassed while working at the network under its chairman, Roger Ailes, who died in 2017, less than a year after he was forced out.

The video includes a detailed discussion between Ms. Kelly and her former colleagues in which they share painful details of what it was like to work at the network. One of the women, Juliet Huddy, said that during a workplace meeting, Mr. Ailes said, “Turn around, let me see your ass.”

In a written introduction to the video on her Instagram page, Ms. Kelly, who had previously described being harassed by Mr. Ailes in her 2016 memoir “Settle for More,” said she had no connection to “Bombshell.” “I did not produce, consult on, or have anything to do with the film,” she wrote. “Neither I nor the women I watched it with sold the rights to our stories (or in my case, my book), so it was somewhat jarring to see a version of our experiences told by strangers.”

She added, “I watched the movie with some of my friends who, like me, were sexually harassed while at Fox News.”

The film, written by the journalist Charles Randolph and directed by Jay Roach, portrays Ms. Kelly as a fighter whose decision to challenge Mr. Ailes roughly coincides with her pressing Donald J. Trump at the start of a 2015 presidential debate over his insulting comments about women.

Ms. Kelly is played with almost eerie verisimilitude by the Oscar winner Charlize Theron, and “Bombshell” returns to public consciousness the often prosecutorial television anchor whose career was thriving before her ill-fated run at NBC, which ended last year.

The video posted by Ms. Kelly shows her watching “Bombshell” at a private screening with three former Fox News journalists — Ms. Huddy, Rudi Bakhtiar and Julie Zann — as well as Ms. Kelly’s husband, the author Douglas Brunt, who is played in the film by Mark Duplass.

The video, marked with an “MK” logo in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, intersperses key scenes from the film with the women’s reactions in the screening room and their comments afterward.

During the sit-down discussion, Ms. Huddy, who left Fox News with a settlement after she said she had been sexually harassed by the former Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly, said that her mother once overheard Mr. O’Reilly “pleasuring himself” via speakerphone. (Mr. O’Reilly has said there is no merit to the allegations made against him.)

The talk moved on to Mr. Ailes and his habit of asking the women who worked at Fox News to twirl for him in his private office.

“I do think we need to talk about the spin, the infamous spin, inside of Ailes’s office,” Ms. Kelly asked the women. “Did you have to do it?”

“I was asked to twirl, and I did it,” Ms. Zann answered.

“So I was asked to do the spin,” Ms. Kelly said, “and, God help me, I did it.” After noting that she had been an honors student who was offered a partnership at the law firm Jones Day, she added, “If you don’t get how demeaning that is, I can’t help you.”

Ms. Zann said that the “Bombshell” scenes that depicted the interactions between Mr. Ailes and the Fox News employee played by Margot Robbie — a composite character whose experience at the network was based on that of various women — were “very close to what happened.” Ms. Zann spoke through tears, and she went on to describe a key difference between her and the film character: “I lost my job because I did say no,” Ms. Zann said, adding, “He wanted me to ask him to give him oral sex, and I was not going to go there.”

Ms. Bakhtiar, played in the film by Nazanin Boniadi, said the film got her experience right. In the movie, she is shown rebuffing the advances of a Fox News anchor, Brian Wilson, who has denied Ms. Bakhtiar’s account of events. In the discussion led by Ms. Kelly, Ms. Bakhtiar said she ended up off the air one day after making a complaint.

“Everyone would tell you don’t complain about sexual harassment because you’ll lose your job,” Ms. Bakhtiar said. “I didn’t think it would happen, but it was immediate.”

In October, Ms. Huddy and Ms. Bakhtiar told The Hollywood Reporter that they had broken the nondisclosure agreements they had signed with Fox News to speak with the “Bombshell” filmmakers.

Ms. Kelly left Fox News for NBC in 2017. Her stint at the network came to an abrupt halt in October 2018, after she wondered aloud, during a “Today” show segment that was criticized as racist, why it was inappropriate for white people to dress in blackface for Halloween. Ms. Kelly and the network had a final parting of ways last January, with NBC agreeing to pay her the outstanding balance on her contract, about $30 million.

Since then, she has kept a relatively low profile, appearing once on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program and posting self-produced interviews on Instagram and YouTube.

In the video posted Thursday, Ms. Kelly said “Bombshell” got a few things wrong. For one thing, she said, Mr. Ailes was not happy with the line of questioning she employed with Mr. Trump during the debate. In the movie, the Fox News chairman is shown saying that the tough exchange made for good television. “A fantasy,” Ms. Kelly said.

She also criticized the scene in which the character played by Ms. Robbie accuses her of watching out for her own career at the expense of other women at Fox News, calling the scene an example of “victim-shaming.” Still, she added, she would not have cut the scene from the film.

In a comment on her Instagram page, Ms. Kelly expressed another complaint with “Bombshell,” writing, “They never asked me for the rights to my book, nor would I have sold them if they did.

“But clearly, they lifted large portions of it for the movie,” she continued. “Then sprinkled in a bunch of fiction.”

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For China’s Pickup Artists, Sex Is the Goal and Urging Suicide Is a Tactic

Westlake Legal Group 25NewWorld-illo-facebookJumbo For China’s Pickup Artists, Sex Is the Goal and Urging Suicide Is a Tactic Women and Girls Strauss, Neil sexual harassment pickup artist Peking University Dating and Relationships China

“You’ve given your best thing to another man,” he texted her, referring to her virginity. “I’m left with nothing.”

She texted back: “I’ve said my best thing is my future.”

“You’re shameless,” he lashed out, calling her a “stinking idiot” and a “slut.”

“I want you to get pregnant with me then get an abortion,” he said.

On Oct. 9, the woman, referred to as Bao Li, the Chinese equivalent of Jane Doe, tried to commit suicide. She has since been declared brain dead.

One of her last messages to the man: “You’re dazzling while I’m a piece of garbage.”

Her tragic story shocked the Chinese public. A hashtag referring to screenshots of her text exchanges got nearly 1.4 billion views in just two days on the social media platform Weibo before it was censored.

Many people could not fathom how an undergraduate at a prestigious school, Peking University, could end up in such a toxic relationship. Many also did not know that there is a name for men who often use such cruel tactics in pursuit of women: PUAs, or pickup artists.

In China, the English initials PUA refer to both the man and his manipulative techniques. Pickup artists often employ gaslighting, a form of psychological control intended to make someone question her own sanity. Friends of the Peking University student and many online users believed that her boyfriend, Mou Linhan, a fellow student, had used such techniques.

“Many of the details of their relationship reminded us of the notorious PUA,” her friends wrote in a long social media post that included screenshots of chat messages between the couple.

“After a long time of mental abuse, including cursing, humiliation and vilification, she was filled with pain and fear and lost the ability to push back,” they wrote.

PUA as a concept came to China from the United States. Chinese men translated what is widely considered a bible of the pickup artist community, “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” by Neil Strauss, and began sharing his seduction tricks. (Mr. Strauss did not respond to a request for comment.)

Over the last decade, it has become a big business in China. Thousands of companies and websites catering to the pickup community and offering dating advice for men have cropped up. One of the biggest websites, Paoxuewang, said it had nearly two million members before it was shut down in 2018. At its peak in late 2017, Langji, the most-well-known PUA company, employed a staff of about 400 and had nearly 100,000 students, according to Chinese news reports.

It is not clear whether Mr. Mou had enrolled in any such programs. But WeChat Index, which monitors the popularity of topics on WeChat, China’s biggest social media platform, indicated that mentions of the term “PUA” soared nearly 1,700 percent overnight after a news article about the woman’s attempted suicide spread across the internet.

In interviews with Chinese news outlets, Mr. Mou said he had not tried to manipulate his girlfriend psychologically and did not know what mind control was.

Some of the companies and websites geared toward men and dating provide common-sense lessons. They advise dressing nicely, holding doors for women and being considerate in relationships.

But the more nefarious teach men to manipulate women for their own sexual needs. They dismiss the concept of romantic love, instead promoting the idea that men should sleep with as many women as possible and dominate them completely.

One widely circulated curriculum offers a chapter-by-chapter guide to achieving such goals. It includes methods of destroying a woman’s self-esteem, setting emotionally manipulative traps to prevent women from leaving, pressuring women to change their personalities to become more compliant, encouraging suicide, and exploiting women financially to buy cars and homes.

“Then you will be on your way to the top of the world,” the guide reads.

The popularity of these programs reveals deeper societal issues. China is a highly patriarchal society, where men rarely face scrutiny for sexual assault and harassment, while women are routinely criticized for their age, weight, virginity or any number of perceived failings.

“Can PUA explain such tragedies?” Fang Kecheng, an assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote in a blog post about Ms. Bao’s suicide attempt. “If we expose PUA’s usual tricks, are we sure that such things won’t happen again?”

He says the root lies in China’s gender inequality. “PUA is an easy scapegoat,” he said. “Focusing on it simplifies the complexity of the tragedy.”

Some PUA programs seek to capitalize on that inequality, openly teaching misogynistic techniques.

In one program run by Langji, the teacher, Wang Huanyu, held out the prospect of sleeping with three women in a day, as he claimed to do. “That’s the life of a professional PUA,” he told students, according to a three-part documentary produced by a Chinese news site, The Paper.

“I’m the best PUA in China,” Mr. Wang told the class. “Chat up girls on the street in an hour.”

“Take them directly to a hotel,” he continued in the undated video.

In a series of YouTube videos, Mr. Wang, who is also a co-founder of Langji, demonstrates how to make sexual advances toward women — seeking consent is discouraged. In a 2016 video, he explained what to do when women say “no.” “The best way to prevent the girls from rejecting you is not asking the question ‘Can I hold your hand?’” he said.

He recommended against telling women where they were going when the man had sex in mind. “You don’t need to ask them, ‘Can I take you home?’” he said. “Just take them to a private space.”

If a woman is not willing to have sex, Mr. Wang suggested a solution in Chinese that can best be translated as persistent harassment. He also told his YouTube audience to initiate sex at 3 a.m., when women were sleepy and vulnerable.

“Tuidao,” or push down in Chinese, a euphemism for having sex, is the ultimate goal, he told the students. “How many have you tuidao?” he asked a thin young man in glasses in the documentary. “Sixteen in seven days,” the man responded.

Mr. Wang’s company would become a standard-bearer for the industry. In 2016, it was named a pioneering education institution by a Chinese online video platform, iQiyi.

The government started to crack down on PUA companies in the last two years, and Mr. Wang and his company became targets. Last year, he served 37 days in jail for spreading pornographic products. After the outcry over Ms. Bao’s suicide attempt increased scrutiny of the industry this month, the company deleted all the content on its official website and posted an apology letter, saying it had done “many bad things.”

Four students sued Langji in 2018 for teaching unethical content, including seducing women for sex through manipulative and controlling means, according to court verdicts. A court in the southwestern city of Chengdu, where Langji is based, ruled this year in their favor and ordered the company to refund their tuitions, between $1,000 and $4,250. Mr. Wang and his co-founder declined to be interviewed.

The police in the eastern province of Jiangsu announced in May that they had arrested a man who ran another program that taught men to encourage women to commit suicide, abuse them emotionally and treat them as “pets” and “prey.” The man was detained for five days and fined over $7,000. His websites and social media groups have been deleted.

Such programs are an outgrowth of the uneven balance of power in China. The country’s economic growth in the last 40 years has benefited men much more than women. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 ranks China at 106, falling from 63 in 2006.

Chinese women are better educated than before, yet they have fewer opportunities. They are still largely judged by whom they marry.

After I asked on Weibo if any women had boyfriends who followed PUA techniques, two young women contacted me. Neither of them was sure that her former boyfriend had actually studied PUA strategies, but both identified with the student who had tried to commit suicide.

One of them, Amy, from Sichuan Province, said her ex-boyfriend had been very sweet in the beginning, then had started criticizing her for the smallest things. During their three-month relationship, he kept saying she needed to get married and have children as soon as possible since she was too old at 30.

“He called me his husky and asked me to call him master,” according to the woman, who said she was scared to use her full name because of fears of retribution by him.

The other, Kate Zhang, said she and her ex-boyfriend had been high school sweethearts in Shanghai. The trouble, she said, began when he left to go to a top university in Britain, while she left for a school in the United States.

Ms. Zhang said he had become much more domineering, telling her that she needed to lose weight and was a toxic person. They fought all the time on WeChat, just like the couple at Peking University, she said, adding that he similarly told her to get pregnant and then get an abortion. When she told him that she wanted to kill herself, he said, “Go ahead.”

Both women are going to therapy. Both said they were not sure if they could trust men in their future relationships. It was a sentiment echoed by the student at Peking University before she tried to commit suicide.

“When I think of love now,” she texted, “I can’t help but shiver.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

For China’s Pickup Artists, Sex Is the Goal and Urging Suicide Is a Tactic

Westlake Legal Group 25NewWorld-illo-facebookJumbo For China’s Pickup Artists, Sex Is the Goal and Urging Suicide Is a Tactic Women and Girls Strauss, Neil sexual harassment pickup artist Peking University Dating and Relationships China

“You’ve given your best thing to another man,” he texted her, referring to her virginity. “I’m left with nothing.”

She texted back: “I’ve said my best thing is my future.”

“You’re shameless,” he lashed out, calling her a “stinking idiot” and a “slut.”

“I want you to get pregnant with me then get an abortion,” he said.

On Oct. 9, the woman, referred to as Bao Li, the Chinese equivalent of Jane Doe, tried to commit suicide. She has since been declared brain dead.

One of her last messages to the man: “You’re dazzling while I’m a piece of garbage.”

Her tragic story shocked the Chinese public. A hashtag referring to screenshots of her text exchanges got nearly 1.4 billion views in just two days on the social media platform Weibo before it was censored.

Many people could not fathom how an undergraduate at a prestigious school, Peking University, could end up in such a toxic relationship. Many also did not know that there is a name for men who often use such cruel tactics in pursuit of women: PUAs, or pickup artists.

In China, the English initials PUA refer to both the man and his manipulative techniques. Pickup artists often employ gaslighting, a form of psychological control intended to make someone question her own sanity. Friends of the Peking University student and many online users believed that her boyfriend, Mou Linhan, a fellow student, had used such techniques.

“Many of the details of their relationship reminded us of the notorious PUA,” her friends wrote in a long social media post that included screenshots of chat messages between the couple.

“After a long time of mental abuse, including cursing, humiliation and vilification, she was filled with pain and fear and lost the ability to push back,” they wrote.

PUA as a concept came to China from the United States. Chinese men translated what is widely considered a bible of the pickup artist community, “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” by Neil Strauss, and began sharing his seduction tricks. (Mr. Strauss did not respond to a request for comment.)

Over the last decade, it has become a big business in China. Thousands of companies and websites catering to the pickup community and offering dating advice for men have cropped up. One of the biggest websites, Paoxuewang, said it had nearly two million members before it was shut down in 2018. At its peak in late 2017, Langji, the most-well-known PUA company, employed a staff of about 400 and had nearly 100,000 students, according to Chinese news reports.

It is not clear whether Mr. Mou had enrolled in any such programs. But WeChat Index, which monitors the popularity of topics on WeChat, China’s biggest social media platform, indicated that mentions of the term “PUA” soared nearly 1,700 percent overnight after a news article about the woman’s attempted suicide spread across the internet.

In interviews with Chinese news outlets, Mr. Mou said he had not tried to manipulate his girlfriend psychologically and did not know what mind control was.

Some of the companies and websites geared toward men and dating provide common-sense lessons. They advise dressing nicely, holding doors for women and being considerate in relationships.

But the more nefarious teach men to manipulate women for their own sexual needs. They dismiss the concept of romantic love, instead promoting the idea that men should sleep with as many women as possible and dominate them completely.

One widely circulated curriculum offers a chapter-by-chapter guide to achieving such goals. It includes methods of destroying a woman’s self-esteem, setting emotionally manipulative traps to prevent women from leaving, pressuring women to change their personalities to become more compliant, encouraging suicide, and exploiting women financially to buy cars and homes.

“Then you will be on your way to the top of the world,” the guide reads.

The popularity of these programs reveals deeper societal issues. China is a highly patriarchal society, where men rarely face scrutiny for sexual assault and harassment, while women are routinely criticized for their age, weight, virginity or any number of perceived failings.

“Can PUA explain such tragedies?” Fang Kecheng, an assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote in a blog post about Ms. Bao’s suicide attempt. “If we expose PUA’s usual tricks, are we sure that such things won’t happen again?”

He says the root lies in China’s gender inequality. “PUA is an easy scapegoat,” he said. “Focusing on it simplifies the complexity of the tragedy.”

Some PUA programs seek to capitalize on that inequality, openly teaching misogynistic techniques.

In one program run by Langji, the teacher, Wang Huanyu, held out the prospect of sleeping with three women in a day, as he claimed to do. “That’s the life of a professional PUA,” he told students, according to a three-part documentary produced by a Chinese news site, The Paper.

“I’m the best PUA in China,” Mr. Wang told the class. “Chat up girls on the street in an hour.”

“Take them directly to a hotel,” he continued in the undated video.

In a series of YouTube videos, Mr. Wang, who is also a co-founder of Langji, demonstrates how to make sexual advances toward women — seeking consent is discouraged. In a 2016 video, he explained what to do when women say “no.” “The best way to prevent the girls from rejecting you is not asking the question ‘Can I hold your hand?’” he said.

He recommended against telling women where they were going when the man had sex in mind. “You don’t need to ask them, ‘Can I take you home?’” he said. “Just take them to a private space.”

If a woman is not willing to have sex, Mr. Wang suggested a solution in Chinese that can best be translated as persistent harassment. He also told his YouTube audience to initiate sex at 3 a.m., when women were sleepy and vulnerable.

“Tuidao,” or push down in Chinese, a euphemism for having sex, is the ultimate goal, he told the students. “How many have you tuidao?” he asked a thin young man in glasses in the documentary. “Sixteen in seven days,” the man responded.

Mr. Wang’s company would become a standard-bearer for the industry. In 2016, it was named a pioneering education institution by a Chinese online video platform, iQiyi.

The government started to crack down on PUA companies in the last two years, and Mr. Wang and his company became targets. Last year, he served 37 days in jail for spreading pornographic products. After the outcry over Ms. Bao’s suicide attempt increased scrutiny of the industry this month, the company deleted all the content on its official website and posted an apology letter, saying it had done “many bad things.”

Four students sued Langji in 2018 for teaching unethical content, including seducing women for sex through manipulative and controlling means, according to court verdicts. A court in the southwestern city of Chengdu, where Langji is based, ruled this year in their favor and ordered the company to refund their tuitions, between $1,000 and $4,250. Mr. Wang and his co-founder declined to be interviewed.

The police in the eastern province of Jiangsu announced in May that they had arrested a man who ran another program that taught men to encourage women to commit suicide, abuse them emotionally and treat them as “pets” and “prey.” The man was detained for five days and fined over $7,000. His websites and social media groups have been deleted.

Such programs are an outgrowth of the uneven balance of power in China. The country’s economic growth in the last 40 years has benefited men much more than women. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 ranks China at 106, falling from 63 in 2006.

Chinese women are better educated than before, yet they have fewer opportunities. They are still largely judged by whom they marry.

After I asked on Weibo if any women had boyfriends who followed PUA techniques, two young women contacted me. Neither of them was sure that her former boyfriend had actually studied PUA strategies, but both identified with the student who had tried to commit suicide.

One of them, Amy, from Sichuan Province, said her ex-boyfriend had been very sweet in the beginning, then had started criticizing her for the smallest things. During their three-month relationship, he kept saying she needed to get married and have children as soon as possible since she was too old at 30.

“He called me his husky and asked me to call him master,” according to the woman, who said she was scared to use her full name because of fears of retribution by him.

The other, Kate Zhang, said she and her ex-boyfriend had been high school sweethearts in Shanghai. The trouble, she said, began when he left to go to a top university in Britain, while she left for a school in the United States.

Ms. Zhang said he had become much more domineering, telling her that she needed to lose weight and was a toxic person. They fought all the time on WeChat, just like the couple at Peking University, she said, adding that he similarly told her to get pregnant and then get an abortion. When she told him that she wanted to kill herself, he said, “Go ahead.”

Both women are going to therapy. Both said they were not sure if they could trust men in their future relationships. It was a sentiment echoed by the student at Peking University before she tried to commit suicide.

“When I think of love now,” she texted, “I can’t help but shiver.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

For China’s Pickup Artists, Sex Is the Goal and Urging Suicide Is a Tactic

Westlake Legal Group 25NewWorld-illo-facebookJumbo For China’s Pickup Artists, Sex Is the Goal and Urging Suicide Is a Tactic Women and Girls Strauss, Neil sexual harassment pickup artist Peking University Dating and Relationships China

“You’ve given your best thing to another man,” he texted her, referring to her virginity. “I’m left with nothing.”

She texted back: “I’ve said my best thing is my future.”

“You’re shameless,” he lashed out, calling her a “stinking idiot” and a “slut.”

“I want you to get pregnant with me then get an abortion,” he said.

On Oct. 9, the woman, referred to as Bao Li, the Chinese equivalent of Jane Doe, tried to commit suicide. She has since been declared brain dead.

One of her last messages to the man: “You’re dazzling while I’m a piece of garbage.”

Her tragic story shocked the Chinese public. A hashtag referring to screenshots of her text exchanges got nearly 1.4 billion views in just two days on the social media platform Weibo before it was censored.

Many people could not fathom how an undergraduate at a prestigious school, Peking University, could end up in such a toxic relationship. Many also did not know that there is a name for men who often use such cruel tactics in pursuit of women: PUAs, or pickup artists.

In China, the English initials PUA refer to both the man and his manipulative techniques. Pickup artists often employ gaslighting, a form of psychological control intended to make someone question her own sanity. Friends of the Peking University student and many online users believed that her boyfriend, Mou Linhan, a fellow student, had used such techniques.

“Many of the details of their relationship reminded us of the notorious PUA,” her friends wrote in a long social media post that included screenshots of chat messages between the couple.

“After a long time of mental abuse, including cursing, humiliation and vilification, she was filled with pain and fear and lost the ability to push back,” they wrote.

PUA as a concept came to China from the United States. Chinese men translated what is widely considered a bible of the pickup artist community, “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” by Neil Strauss, and began sharing his seduction tricks. (Mr. Strauss did not respond to a request for comment.)

Over the last decade, it has become a big business in China. Thousands of companies and websites catering to the pickup community and offering dating advice for men have cropped up. One of the biggest websites, Paoxuewang, said it had nearly two million members before it was shut down in 2018. At its peak in late 2017, Langji, the most-well-known PUA company, employed a staff of about 400 and had nearly 100,000 students, according to Chinese news reports.

It is not clear whether Mr. Mou had enrolled in any such programs. But WeChat Index, which monitors the popularity of topics on WeChat, China’s biggest social media platform, indicated that mentions of the term “PUA” soared nearly 1,700 percent overnight after a news article about the woman’s attempted suicide spread across the internet.

In interviews with Chinese news outlets, Mr. Mou said he had not tried to manipulate his girlfriend psychologically and did not know what mind control was.

Some of the companies and websites geared toward men and dating provide common-sense lessons. They advise dressing nicely, holding doors for women and being considerate in relationships.

But the more nefarious teach men to manipulate women for their own sexual needs. They dismiss the concept of romantic love, instead promoting the idea that men should sleep with as many women as possible and dominate them completely.

One widely circulated curriculum offers a chapter-by-chapter guide to achieving such goals. It includes methods of destroying a woman’s self-esteem, setting emotionally manipulative traps to prevent women from leaving, pressuring women to change their personalities to become more compliant, encouraging suicide, and exploiting women financially to buy cars and homes.

“Then you will be on your way to the top of the world,” the guide reads.

The popularity of these programs reveals deeper societal issues. China is a highly patriarchal society, where men rarely face scrutiny for sexual assault and harassment, while women are routinely criticized for their age, weight, virginity or any number of perceived failings.

“Can PUA explain such tragedies?” Fang Kecheng, an assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote in a blog post about Ms. Bao’s suicide attempt. “If we expose PUA’s usual tricks, are we sure that such things won’t happen again?”

He says the root lies in China’s gender inequality. “PUA is an easy scapegoat,” he said. “Focusing on it simplifies the complexity of the tragedy.”

Some PUA programs seek to capitalize on that inequality, openly teaching misogynistic techniques.

In one program run by Langji, the teacher, Wang Huanyu, held out the prospect of sleeping with three women in a day, as he claimed to do. “That’s the life of a professional PUA,” he told students, according to a three-part documentary produced by a Chinese news site, The Paper.

“I’m the best PUA in China,” Mr. Wang told the class. “Chat up girls on the street in an hour.”

“Take them directly to a hotel,” he continued in the undated video.

In a series of YouTube videos, Mr. Wang, who is also a co-founder of Langji, demonstrates how to make sexual advances toward women — seeking consent is discouraged. In a 2016 video, he explained what to do when women say “no.” “The best way to prevent the girls from rejecting you is not asking the question ‘Can I hold your hand?’” he said.

He recommended against telling women where they were going when the man had sex in mind. “You don’t need to ask them, ‘Can I take you home?’” he said. “Just take them to a private space.”

If a woman is not willing to have sex, Mr. Wang suggested a solution in Chinese that can best be translated as persistent harassment. He also told his YouTube audience to initiate sex at 3 a.m., when women were sleepy and vulnerable.

“Tuidao,” or push down in Chinese, a euphemism for having sex, is the ultimate goal, he told the students. “How many have you tuidao?” he asked a thin young man in glasses in the documentary. “Sixteen in seven days,” the man responded.

Mr. Wang’s company would become a standard-bearer for the industry. In 2016, it was named a pioneering education institution by a Chinese online video platform, iQiyi.

The government started to crack down on PUA companies in the last two years, and Mr. Wang and his company became targets. Last year, he served 37 days in jail for spreading pornographic products. After the outcry over Ms. Bao’s suicide attempt increased scrutiny of the industry this month, the company deleted all the content on its official website and posted an apology letter, saying it had done “many bad things.”

Four students sued Langji in 2018 for teaching unethical content, including seducing women for sex through manipulative and controlling means, according to court verdicts. A court in the southwestern city of Chengdu, where Langji is based, ruled this year in their favor and ordered the company to refund their tuitions, between $1,000 and $4,250. Mr. Wang and his co-founder declined to be interviewed.

The police in the eastern province of Jiangsu announced in May that they had arrested a man who ran another program that taught men to encourage women to commit suicide, abuse them emotionally and treat them as “pets” and “prey.” The man was detained for five days and fined over $7,000. His websites and social media groups have been deleted.

Such programs are an outgrowth of the uneven balance of power in China. The country’s economic growth in the last 40 years has benefited men much more than women. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 ranks China at 106, falling from 63 in 2006.

Chinese women are better educated than before, yet they have fewer opportunities. They are still largely judged by whom they marry.

After I asked on Weibo if any women had boyfriends who followed PUA techniques, two young women contacted me. Neither of them was sure that her former boyfriend had actually studied PUA strategies, but both identified with the student who had tried to commit suicide.

One of them, Amy, from Sichuan Province, said her ex-boyfriend had been very sweet in the beginning, then had started criticizing her for the smallest things. During their three-month relationship, he kept saying she needed to get married and have children as soon as possible since she was too old at 30.

“He called me his husky and asked me to call him master,” according to the woman, who said she was scared to use her full name because of fears of retribution by him.

The other, Kate Zhang, said she and her ex-boyfriend had been high school sweethearts in Shanghai. The trouble, she said, began when he left to go to a top university in Britain, while she left for a school in the United States.

Ms. Zhang said he had become much more domineering, telling her that she needed to lose weight and was a toxic person. They fought all the time on WeChat, just like the couple at Peking University, she said, adding that he similarly told her to get pregnant and then get an abortion. When she told him that she wanted to kill herself, he said, “Go ahead.”

Both women are going to therapy. Both said they were not sure if they could trust men in their future relationships. It was a sentiment echoed by the student at Peking University before she tried to commit suicide.

“When I think of love now,” she texted, “I can’t help but shiver.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

They Said #MeToo. Now They Are Being Sued.

Westlake Legal Group 00ChinaDefame-illo-facebookJumbo They Said #MeToo. Now They Are Being Sued. Women's Rights Suits and Litigation (Civil) sexual harassment Sex Crimes Liu, Richard China #MeToo Movement

In a small courtroom in Beijing, supporters of Wang Qi huddled together, awaiting the start of China’s first #MeToo trial. Ms. Wang had accused her former boss of sexually harassing her.

But it wasn’t Ms. Wang’s former boss who was on trial. It was Ms. Wang herself.

Zhou Fei, a top official at the China branch of the World Wildlife Fund, sued Ms. Wang in August 2018, accusing his former employee of defaming him when she wrote in a social media post that he forcibly kissed her during a work trip. If Ms. Wang loses the case, she has to apologize to Mr. Zhou online and pay him $1,400.

“If one doesn’t make a sacrifice for the protection of women’s rights and interests,” she said last year, before her lawyer warned her she risked further defamation claims by talking, “there will definitely be no progress.”

In China, the accuser can quickly become the accused. At least six men publicly accused of sexual assault or harassment have sued their accusers, or people who have publicized those accusers’ claims, for defamation in the past year.

In fact, of just 34 lawsuits filed in China between 2010 and 2017 related to sexual harassment in the workplace, 19 of those were filed by the accused perpetrators, according to the Beijing Yuanzhong Gender Development Center, an advocacy group. More than half were filed by accused harassers against their employers, citing unfair dismissal or harm to their reputations. In one case, a victim had to compensate her harasser for damaging his eardrum after she slapped him. Women who said they had been harassed filed only two of the lawsuits.

As the #MeToo movement has spread, men in the United States, France, India and elsewhere have turned to the courts, sometimes successfully arguing that they had been defamed by their accusers or by the media. The most famous example might be Geoffrey Rush, the Australian actor, who in April won at least $608,000 from The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Australia.

But #MeToo activists say China represents an extreme example of using courts to suppress accusations. That can make women think twice about going public in a highly patriarchal society that often shames them for speaking out, the activists say.

The government has enacted laws banning sexual harassment but does not define the term. Enforcement is poor. Defamation laws are stacked in favor of plaintiffs, with a greater burden of proof falling on the victim. If she fails, she is presumed to be “subjectively at fault.”

Victims are often pressured to stay silent, said Li Ying, a lawyer and the director of the Yuanzhong Gender Development Center. “Our entire society is still biased, and stigmatizes victims of sexual harassment,” she said.

By some measures, though, the #MeToo movement has changed China. It inspired dozens of women to demand investigations into bosses, teachers and co-workers. In August, the government updated its civil code to increase obligations on Chinese employers to prevent sexual harassment.

But Beijing suppresses #MeToo discussions online because it fears social movements it does not control. Online allegations of sexual misconduct were one of the most heavily censored topics on the messaging platform WeChat in 2018, according to WeChatscope, a research project at the University of Hong Kong. The hashtags #MeToo and #Woyeshi (“me too” in Chinese) are banned on the Chinese internet.

Perhaps the most famous example of a #MeToo defamation suit in China is the one filed by Richard Liu, the e-commerce tycoon. Mr. Liu, founder of online retailer JD.com, is suing two Chinese bloggers for commenting on allegations that he raped a Chinese student at the University of Minnesota last year after a business dinner. Mr. Liu, who has not been charged with a crime, is demanding $436,000 plus legal expenses and an apology.

Last year, Zhou Xiaoxuan became the face of China’s #MeToo movement after she accused Zhu Jun, an anchor for China Central Television, the state-run broadcaster, of sexually assaulting her in 2014. Last year, Mr. Zhu filed a defamation suit against Ms. Zhou describing her accusations as “blatantly fabricated and viciously spread” and seeking about $95,000 in damages.

Ms. Zhou countersued, claiming damage to her dignity.

In July, a court in the city of Shenzhen heard a defamation case filed by Xu Gang, a former professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, against the Wesleyan University professor Wang Ao after Dr. Wang posted on social media that several students had been sexually assaulted by Dr. Xu. Dr. Xu has denied the allegations, which his lawyer has said are defamatory.

In September, Dr. Wang and two of Dr. Xu’s former students filed a lawsuit in Illinois, accusing Dr. Xu of rape, sexual abuse and assault.

The following month, the Chinese court sided with Dr. Xu and awarded him more than $14,000, said Dr. Wang, who said he would appeal.

Incidents often occurred a long time ago and victims often do not retain the evidence, making their cases difficult to prove.

Belinda He, who nine years ago was a 21-year-old intern at a weekly Chinese newsmagazine, accused an older colleague of forcibly kissing her and taking off her clothes in a hotel room. Still, she did not make her allegations public for a long time.

When Zou Sicong, another former journalist, heard Ms. He’s account, he was outraged. Ms. He wrote an article about the incident and passed it to Mr. Zou, who posted it on his personal WeChat account in August 2018. The article named the accused, Deng Fei, the chief correspondent of the magazine. Ms. He was identified as “Lady C.”

Three months later, Mr. Deng sued Mr. Zou for defamation. In August, Ms. He received a court notice that Mr. Deng had also decided to sue her on the same charge.

Mr. Zou said he wants to help women like Ms. He seek justice and to defend his freedom of speech.

“It’s part of my value system and I’m willing to pay the price for it,” he said.

Many of those difficulties have played out in the defamation trial of Ms. Wang, the former W.W.F. employee. Women’s rights activists call it the first trial over sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement emerged in China.

On July 2018, Ms. Wang wrote on Weibo that “a certain leader in W.W.F. surnamed Zhou” kissed her after a drunken night on March 14, 2016 during a work trip. She resigned from her job in 2017 after being diagnosed with depression, she said.

Some people asked her why she was making a big fuss over just a kiss. Her friends warned her not to talk about the incident, telling her she had to “be careful.”

“I am just angry,” Ms. Wang wrote. “I have no ability to take him to court.”

Ms. Wang said that in the wake of her social-media posts, dozens of women wrote to her, “saying they had similar encounters but they didn’t dare to speak up.”

Mr. Zhou did not respond to requests for comment made through the W.W.F. and did not answer calls to his mobile phone.

On a chilly day in December 2018, Ms. Wang appeared before a judge in a small courtroom in Beijing as she prepared to defend herself. Her lawyers, journalists, and a supporter — six people in total — were crammed into the four available seats.

When Mr. Zhou, her former boss, walked in, Ms. Wang avoided eye contact. The supporter, Tang Ke, stared at him. Ms. Tang said she did not know Ms. Wang personally but decided to come after she saw her post on Weibo.

“Look at him, how can he still be smiling?” asked Ms. Tang through gritted teeth.

Later, the judge asked the observers to explain what they were doing in court. Mr. Zhou’s lawyers then argued that the trial had to be closed to the public, citing their client’s privacy. The judge approved the request, prompting a protest from Ms. Tang.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Tang said she, too, was a victim of sexual assault by three men. She called Mr. Zhou a “bully” for suing Ms. Wang, and said that she was at the courthouse to take a stand against the government censorship of #MeToo.

“If every woman is able to speak out about sexual assault and expose these men online, then men will have to pay a price,” said Ms. Tang.

“And if there is a price to pay, then they will not dare to do such things.”

Ultimately, Mr. Zhou prevailed in China’s first #MeToo trial. This week, the court sided with him and against Ms. Wang. Though she will not have to pay him $1,400 in damages, the court ordered her to apologize to him and to delete her accusatory posts.

Elsie Chen and Amber Wang contributed research.

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‘Survivor’ Limps to a Finale After a Difficult Season

Westlake Legal Group 18Survivor-01-facebookJumbo ‘Survivor’ Limps to a Finale After a Difficult Season Workplace Hazards and Violations Television Survivor (TV Program) Spilo, Dan sexual harassment CBS Corporation #MeToo Movement

Ordinarily, the season finale of “Survivor” is a festive occasion. The contestants gather to reminisce about their time on an island off Fiji, and the winner is announced and awarded $1 million.

On Wednesday, it won’t be so simple.

As the CBS competition show limped to the end of Season 39, it was still scoring ratings, making an unlikely return to the top 10 as the seventh-most-watched entertainment program on network television.

But the announcement of the latest winner caps a season that did not provide the usual escapist thrills. This “Survivor” offended die-hard fans and some former cast members because of how the show handled female contestants’ complaints of inappropriate touching against a male contestant.

For the first time, instead of airing live, the reunion special that is broadcast after the winner is announced was taped hours in advance. And as recently as a few days ago, a “Survivor” contestant who raised concerns about inappropriate touching, Kellee Kim, was not sure if she would be allowed to speak freely about her experience during the reunion.

The backlash over “Survivor,” which ranks as CBS’s highest-rated entertainment show for adults under 50, took place at a network that has been rocked by a societal reckoning on workplace sexual misconduct. The chief executive, a star anchor and several leading producers at the company have been felled since the start of the #MeToo movement.

Debra Katz, a lawyer representing Ms. Kim, contacted CBS late last week to express her concerns. After talks, the network said Ms. Kim would be permitted to speak freely at the reunion special.

In a statement this week, CBS also acknowledged that there were “things we could have done differently” this season, adding that “we are determined to do better going forward.” The network also announced a series of “Survivor” production changes “to ensure that the events that occurred this season are not repeated.”

In an interview on Wednesday evening, after the reunion taped, Ms. Kim said, “What’s really most important is that ‘Survivor’ and CBS took responsibility and apologized. These changes that I’ve been asking for for many, many months have been put into place, so no one else is going to have to go through something like this.”

In an episode that aired last month, which was filmed months ago in Fiji, Ms. Kim said that a fellow contestant, Dan Spilo, had made her uncomfortable by repeatedly touching her without her consent. “Survivor” broadcast much of the footage of the unwanted contact.

After Mr. Spilo was issued a warning, the contestants were left to their own devices. Ms. Kim was ultimately voted off the show, prompting a backlash and underscoring an on-air statement she had made earlier: “There are always consequences for standing up.” Mr. Spilo remained on the island for several more episodes.

In last week’s episode, Mr. Spilo, a Hollywood talent manager, was removed from the show, as well as from the jury that awards $1 million to the season’s winner. The only explanation for the decision was a title card onscreen saying he had been ejected “after a report of another incident” that occurred off-camera and did not involve a contestant. In a statement to People on Tuesday, Mr. Spilo apologized.

Ever since, “Survivor” has been on the receiving end of withering commentary. The New York Times television critic James Poniewozik faulted the show for “the inept, shameful, evasive way it handled sexual misconduct.” A former “Survivor” contestant, Zeke Smith — who applauded the sensitivity that the network and the show had displayed two years ago when he was outed by a fellow contestant as transgender — also criticized the show. “This predator could have and should have been stopped long ago, but those in power made a choice not to stop him,” he tweeted last week. “Shame on you, Survivor.”

Ms. Kim’s lawyer, Ms. Katz, said in an interview, “Sexual harassment should never be used for entertainment value. And what happened in this instance was completely unacceptable.”

Even with the uproar, ratings have held steady. But many longtime fans have been furious.

“There was a lot of shock and horror and numbness,” said Andy Dehnart, the creator of the website Reality Blurred, describing the reaction among “Survivor” superfans. “And there were a lot of questions about how this could happen at all.”

For Wednesday’s finale, CBS did not invite Mr. Spilo to the reunion special.

As late as of last week, Ms. Katz said, it was unclear what role Ms. Kim would play, as well.

“Kellee was concerned that she was not going to be able to speak at the finale,” Ms. Katz added. “And if she was allowed to speak, that it would be too scripted and she would not be able to say the things that were important for her to say.”

Ms. Kim underscored the point by saying she was worried about “whether I’d get a free, open venue to speak.”

On Dec. 13, with Ms. Kim’s role in the finale still up in the air, Ms. Katz emailed CBS and MGM, the studio that makes the show.

“Let me be clear at the onset: Ms. Kim does not seek compensation,” she wrote. “Her motivation in retaining counsel is to begin a productive dialogue about changes production and CBS must make in future seasons of the show.”

In the email, Ms. Katz also described the show’s “serious mishandling” of Ms. Kim’s complaint, she said in an interview. It was not long after sending the email that CBS informed Ms. Kim that she would be permitted to speak freely on the final episode.

A CBS spokesman said, “There was never any doubt in our mind that she would be part of it and be able to speak freely about her experience.” The spokesman added that her discussion with Jeff Probst, the show’s longtime host, during the reunion special would be “broadcast unedited.”

The opening minutes of the reunion proceeded as they would in any season. Mr. Probst talked about season highs with several contestants, and he announced the pop singer Sia’s three favorite players of the season, along with cash prizes that go with it.

But then Mr. Probst dispensed with tradition and spoke one-on-one with Ms. Kim, with the pair sitting on stools.

Mr. Probst said this was a teachable moment and apologized for the way the show handled her allegations. As they sat down, he said, “You were right, you were right.”

Ms. Kim, tearing up, said, “I hope this season of ‘Survivor’ isn’t just defined by inappropriate touching or sexual harassment. I hope it’s defined by change.”

On Tuesday, CBS detailed its planned improvements for future seasons of “Survivor.” One rule will say that unwanted physical contact or sexual harassment will not be allowed. The production will also assign an executive to the set so that contestants can express their concerns confidentially.

Ms. Kim said she was heartened by the response and wanted the network to see it through.

“I hope that this has been a true learning lesson and things are different going forward, but only time will tell,” she said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘Survivor’ Limps to a Finale After a Difficult Season

Westlake Legal Group 18Survivor-01-facebookJumbo ‘Survivor’ Limps to a Finale After a Difficult Season Workplace Hazards and Violations Television Survivor (TV Program) Spilo, Dan sexual harassment CBS Corporation #MeToo Movement

Ordinarily, the season finale of “Survivor” is a festive occasion. The contestants gather to reminisce about their time on an island off Fiji, and the winner is announced and awarded $1 million.

On Wednesday, it won’t be so simple.

As the CBS competition show limped to the end of Season 39, it was still scoring ratings, making an unlikely return to the top 10 as the seventh-most-watched entertainment program on network television.

But the announcement of the latest winner caps a season that did not provide the usual escapist thrills. This “Survivor” offended die-hard fans and some former cast members because of how the show handled female contestants’ complaints of inappropriate touching against a male contestant.

For the first time, instead of airing live, the reunion special that is broadcast after the winner is announced was taped hours in advance. And as recently as a few days ago, a “Survivor” contestant who raised concerns about inappropriate touching, Kellee Kim, was not sure if she would be allowed to speak freely about her experience during the reunion.

The backlash over “Survivor,” which ranks as CBS’s highest-rated entertainment show for adults under 50, took place at a network that has been rocked by a societal reckoning on workplace sexual misconduct. The chief executive, a star anchor and several leading producers at the company have been felled since the start of the #MeToo movement.

Debra Katz, a lawyer representing Ms. Kim, contacted CBS late last week to express her concerns. After talks, the network said Ms. Kim would be permitted to speak freely at the reunion special.

In a statement this week, CBS also acknowledged that there were “things we could have done differently” this season, adding that “we are determined to do better going forward.” The network also announced a series of “Survivor” production changes “to ensure that the events that occurred this season are not repeated.”

In an interview on Wednesday evening, after the reunion taped, Ms. Kim said, “What’s really most important is that ‘Survivor’ and CBS took responsibility and apologized. These changes that I’ve been asking for for many, many months have been put into place, so no one else is going to have to go through something like this.”

In an episode that aired last month, which was filmed months ago in Fiji, Ms. Kim said that a fellow contestant, Dan Spilo, had made her uncomfortable by repeatedly touching her without her consent. “Survivor” broadcast much of the footage of the unwanted contact.

After Mr. Spilo was issued a warning, the contestants were left to their own devices. Ms. Kim was ultimately voted off the show, prompting a backlash and underscoring an on-air statement she had made earlier: “There are always consequences for standing up.” Mr. Spilo remained on the island for several more episodes.

In last week’s episode, Mr. Spilo, a Hollywood talent manager, was removed from the show, as well as from the jury that awards $1 million to the season’s winner. The only explanation for the decision was a title card onscreen saying he had been ejected “after a report of another incident” that occurred off-camera and did not involve a contestant. In a statement to People on Tuesday, Mr. Spilo apologized.

Ever since, “Survivor” has been on the receiving end of withering commentary. The New York Times television critic James Poniewozik faulted the show for “the inept, shameful, evasive way it handled sexual misconduct.” A former “Survivor” contestant, Zeke Smith — who applauded the sensitivity that the network and the show had displayed two years ago when he was outed by a fellow contestant as transgender — also criticized the show. “This predator could have and should have been stopped long ago, but those in power made a choice not to stop him,” he tweeted last week. “Shame on you, Survivor.”

Ms. Kim’s lawyer, Ms. Katz, said in an interview, “Sexual harassment should never be used for entertainment value. And what happened in this instance was completely unacceptable.”

Even with the uproar, ratings have held steady. But many longtime fans have been furious.

“There was a lot of shock and horror and numbness,” said Andy Dehnart, the creator of the website Reality Blurred, describing the reaction among “Survivor” superfans. “And there were a lot of questions about how this could happen at all.”

For Wednesday’s finale, CBS did not invite Mr. Spilo to the reunion special.

As late as of last week, Ms. Katz said, it was unclear what role Ms. Kim would play, as well.

“Kellee was concerned that she was not going to be able to speak at the finale,” Ms. Katz added. “And if she was allowed to speak, that it would be too scripted and she would not be able to say the things that were important for her to say.”

Ms. Kim underscored the point by saying she was worried about “whether I’d get a free, open venue to speak.”

On Dec. 13, with Ms. Kim’s role in the finale still up in the air, Ms. Katz emailed CBS and MGM, the studio that makes the show.

“Let me be clear at the onset: Ms. Kim does not seek compensation,” she wrote. “Her motivation in retaining counsel is to begin a productive dialogue about changes production and CBS must make in future seasons of the show.”

In the email, Ms. Katz also described the show’s “serious mishandling” of Ms. Kim’s complaint, she said in an interview. It was not long after sending the email that CBS informed Ms. Kim that she would be permitted to speak freely on the final episode.

A CBS spokesman said, “There was never any doubt in our mind that she would be part of it and be able to speak freely about her experience.” The spokesman added that her discussion with Jeff Probst, the show’s longtime host, during the reunion special would be “broadcast unedited.”

The opening minutes of the reunion proceeded as they would in any season. Mr. Probst talked about season highs with several contestants, and he announced the pop singer Sia’s three favorite players of the season, along with cash prizes that go with it.

But then Mr. Probst dispensed with tradition and spoke one-on-one with Ms. Kim, with the pair sitting on stools.

Mr. Probst said this was a teachable moment and apologized for the way the show handled her allegations. As they sat down, he said, “You were right, you were right.”

Ms. Kim, tearing up, said, “I hope this season of ‘Survivor’ isn’t just defined by inappropriate touching or sexual harassment. I hope it’s defined by change.”

On Tuesday, CBS detailed its planned improvements for future seasons of “Survivor.” One rule will say that unwanted physical contact or sexual harassment will not be allowed. The production will also assign an executive to the set so that contestants can express their concerns confidentially.

Ms. Kim said she was heartened by the response and wanted the network to see it through.

“I hope that this has been a true learning lesson and things are different going forward, but only time will tell,” she said.

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