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Actress who won harassment case reveals her ‘intimidation and humiliation’

Helen Vine Helen Vine
by -

An actress awarded more than £10,000 after being sexually harassed has talked of the “intimidation and humiliation” she faced at the hands of her colleagues.

Helen Vine, who previously went by the surname Haines, was subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination while working for theatre-in-education company Rainbow Theatre Productions in autumn 2016, a tribunal found.

She was repeatedly propositioned for sex, confronted with comments about her vagina and breasts and was called a “slut” and a “cunt” during the three months she worked for the company.

She worked alongside director Lee Payne and actors Chay Lewandowski and Natalie Turnbull, with Payne and Lewandowski identified in the judgement as the main perpetrators.

Vine told The Stage that while she had experienced mildly inappropriate behaviour on previous jobs, it became clear “on day one” of her contract with Rainbow that the situation was more severe.

“Looking back, there had been little moments when it had happened before, but with these guys it was a matter of trampling over that line of acceptability on day one, and then it being a case of every day, and it escalated.

“All women might have experienced someone crossing that line of professionalism, but you kind of let it go because it might happen once, or they might apologise, but this was a matter of complete ignorance and disrespect for the staff,” she said.

Vine was awarded £10,524 at a tribunal in December 2017, which concluded that she had been subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination by her colleagues.

Actress wins £10,500 payout in sexual harassment case

Vine said the behaviour she experienced while working on the production conjured up feelings of “absolute intimidation and humiliation”, and made her dread going into work each day.

Vine said that she did not tell some close family or friends about what she was experiencing at times because she was “embarrassed to admit it”, adding that she now also thinks she had become desensitised to the behaviour.

Vine sought help from Equity, which took up her case, but she said the year-long court process had “really affected [her] personal, social and professional life”.

A spokesman for Equity said it would “continue to vigorously defend” its members from discrimination, and acknowledged Vine’s “strength of character and courage” during the tribunal process.

Vine added: ”It’s really important that the perpetrators are called out on their behaviour because hopefully they won’t do it again and it helps other people in the industry to recognise this behaviour early on and dampen it immediately.”

Rainbow Theatre Productions’ artistic director Nick Young responded that the company was “naturally very disappointed with the result of the tribunal” and confirmed that the individuals in question were no longer employed by the company.

He added: “I am very sorry for any hurt feelings Helen has suffered, but if an actor is unhappy, then they should speak up and tell the management. Theatre is about communication.”

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