How Natasha Henstridge found strength as a #MeToo survivor

On November 1, 2017, The Times published an investigation in which six women accused director Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct. One of the women, actress Natasha Henstridge, said Ratner violently armed and physically forced her to perform oral sex on her in the early 1990s when she was 19. Ratner, through his attorney Martin Singer, categorically denied all of the women’s allegations.

The Times asked Henstridge to reflect on the past five years. This is her account, as told by Amy Kaufman, senior entertainment writer for The Times. It has been edited for clarity and length.

I remember the moment I told the Times go ahead, use my name, put me on the record. I was at my girlfriend’s house. I’d had a few glasses of wine and was feeling totally perky and brave. Being the first person on the record is scary, and I had spent at least a week weighing the pros and cons of speaking out.

Top of the pro list: I should have done this 20 years ago. I, like so many survivors, initially thought I was the only one. But when I found out that there had been other women who had allegedly been subjected to sexual assault, I was very concerned.

After the Weinstein allegations came out, I thought about Brett and how nobody was talking about him. He could go on with what he was doing. I struggled with that.

I’ve had very powerful people telling me not to speak out. There were so many fears. Never work again. get bullied. To get sued. I was afraid. I was afraid for my safety for a really long time. I thought I was being followed. Maybe it was paranoia, I don’t know.

I’m a person who keeps to himself and minds his business. I don’t have to be in everyone’s business. I don’t really work like that. It’s awful to say, but part of me thought that ignorance is bliss. But that was important. I had to take a stand.

In the end I just asked myself: What am I doing here if I can’t stand up for what’s right? My late ex-husband and dear friend, Darius Danesh, was the one who convinced me to come forward. He was a champion of justice, truth, and women’s rights, and so I thought, God, we can go through life with blinders on and pretend nothing is happening, or we can do something to make a difference.

Ashley Judd was the primary source in the New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein, the woman whose decision to go public triggered a domino effect and encouraged other women to make their allegations public as well. I later found out I was the Ashley Judd of the LA Times’ Brett Ratner investigation. The newspaper needed a person who said yes to get on the record. And after I did that, others followed.

It was important for me to be that person because I felt like I had disappointed so many women up until that moment. I hadn’t shared what had happened to me. I hadn’t prevented the same thing from happening again.

That’s the big message I give to women who are considering coming forward: “How will you feel if this keeps happening to other women?” I thought I was the only person this had ever happened to with Brett. We’re so naive sometimes. Lo and behold, there are people who will not withstand the pressure. It’s an individual choice.

I think back to the time I was once stopped in my car by two guys with shotguns. I never called the police. I just got out of there. I remember just wanting to go home. Looking back now, I see so many reasons I should have reported the crime: to find the guys, to stop them from doing the same thing to someone else, to make sure the reported crime statistics are accurate. But at the time, I just felt that the reporting wasn’t the right thing to do. I really struggled.

That’s the stuff you put in the back of your head. You go through life tough as nails and you act like nothing bad ever happened and you weigh everything down. you keep walking you live on If you don’t see your abuser, audition for them, or meet them at a party, sweep it all under the rug. That article in the LA Times and all the media coverage that followed brought so much to the surface. As a young girl in this business, I always thought I was tougher than anything, but then all of that happened. I was just a young girl being taken advantage of. Let’s be honest what it was. Emotions ran high with all of this. It was intense.

I left town for a few days after the article was published in The Times. I was very afraid – for my physical security, for my financial security. I was in a guest house in Palm Springs and I was literally shaking. I stayed there two, three, maybe four days. I didn’t want to come back to LA

However, the response to the article when I was able to record it was incredible – people with similar stories, support from my family and others I had never really spoken to about this stuff. I never wanted them to feel bad about leaving their little girl home and finding themselves in situations that weren’t always the safest.

I found it funny that male producers I worked with called. They were sweet and supportive, but they were also checking themselves. “Have I always been appropriate with you?” they would ask. “What, am I getting canceled?” “Did I step over the line?” “Where was the line?” “Have I ever done the wrong thing or said the wrong thing?” There were many men who questioned themselves.

And you’d be surprised how that still plays out. I had approached me by phone from someone I know socially – it was probably a few years ago. “I met so-and-so at the gym and someone they knew had a film that Brett still wanted to do. They asked themselves, “What would make it right for me? Everyone has a price for doing things right,'” the caller said. And I said, “What do you mean? What are you saying? I’m supposed to say, ‘Just kidding! That never happened?'”

Let me tell you something: I’m no longer a 25-year-old in-demand actress earning the salary I earned as a minor movie star. I could have used the money. But I said, “No, there’s absolutely no price.” You know, which would have gone a long way? An apology.

That still haunts me. I was in the production van on my way to work and someone is going to talk about how ridiculous it is that everyone gets canceled for sexual misconduct. “The pendulum has swung too far,” someone will say. These are conversations that happen in the van with me in it, and I had to speak up and say, “You know, guys, this happened to me.”

But I’ve also found that people on set are more cautious about not assuming everyone is comfortable with touch. Even sound engineers who always have their hands on their chests and up their skirts are more careful and conscientious about microphone placement. I saw a shift.

It’s still hard to speak out. I don’t want people to think of me as difficult like the “Oh god, she’s going to cancel everyone” woman. I’m still very afraid of it. I think people have learned so much more about the psychology of rape and sexual harassment. People say: “Natascha, you are one of the strongest and toughest people I know. I can’t even see you in a situation like that.” But there’s this whole concept of fight, flight or freeze. There is a different survival mechanism that comes into play in different settings, in different settings, and with different threats. Until you experience what it’s like to be really scared in a room, to see someone slam a door and hold you down – if you’re not in that position, you don’t know what you’re going to do. So don’t be so quick to chase me for not biting his tail off.

My job was to tell my story, not dictate the outcome of Brett’s life forever. This is not my task. this is not my life But I’ve known some people who have been talking a lot about doing meaningful pro-women projects, and the next thing I see is they’re making a film about Milli Vanilli, with Brett Ratner directing. I was mad. I reached out to her and had a few conversations. In the end they pulled the film. That felt incredible. Because he didn’t apologize, and without an apology, I don’t think it’s fair that you just wait a few years, let the dust settle, and carry on as usual.

Has talking affected my job opportunities? It’s so hard to tell, it’s like sliding doors. I’ve done some bad projects and some great ones too. That’s the up and down as an actor, and I don’t need proof either way. I did a Canadian TV show for a couple of years. I’ve done a few small films and I’ve got a few things in the works. I’m producing a Christmas film, which is cool.

Actually speaking was one of the proudest things I’ve ever done. I’m so glad I did, to this day.

But to be completely honest, writing this article right now scares me. I wonder if there will be backlash again? There’s still that fear.

I’ve just been invited to the premiere of She Said, the feature film based on Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor’s coverage of Weinstein. My first instinct was: I don’t want to be part of it. But then last night I thought, why not? All of these women came together to do this incredible thing, to change the way Hollywood does business and the way people interact in it. And so I asked myself: What was my problem with being there? I think it’s still that weird stigma, that fear of being perceived as difficult.

I don’t want to live. I like processing things, going through them, or at least believing I’m processing and going through them and then moving forward. I believe in moving forward. But there’s the other half of it: If you do something stupid, acknowledge your stupidity and move on. An apology goes a long way. How Natasha Henstridge found strength as a #MeToo survivor

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