Last week, the New York Times reported that CBS paid actress Eliza Dushku $9.5 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit earlier this year. Dushku claimed that CBS wrote her off the show Bull after she approached her co-star Michael Weatherly to address his treatment of her on set, which allegedly included referring to her as "legs," joking about threesomes, and additional inappropriate commentary. Dushku declined to speak to the Times because the terms of her settlement required confidentiality, but once she saw that Weatherly and writer-producer Glenn Gordon Caron did not honor the agreement she wrote an essay for The Boston Globe telling her side of the story. It is a powerful takedown that gives us Dushku's vital perspective, which includes additional harrowing incidents and effectively refutes all of the defenses given to the Times by Weatherly and Caron.
In the piece, Dushku confirms the reported harassment, which was documented on tape, and stresses that after her three-episode arc she was expected to become a series regular. Repeated encounters with Weatherly prompted her to approach the actor.
"Framing my request as a plea for 'help' in setting a different tone on the set, I asked him to 'be my ally' and to 'help ease the sexualized set comments,'" Dushku explained. "Weatherly responded with, 'Eliza, no one respects women more than I do,' citing his many sisters and his professed history of being 'too respectful of women.'"
According to Dushku, a mere 40 minutes later, Weatherly told CBS Television President David Stapf Dushku had a "humor deficit," and asked for her to be written off the show.
"That’s how a perpetrator rationalizes when he is caught," Dushku said in reference to his jab. "For the record, I grew up in Boston with three older brothers and have generally been considered a tomboy. I made a name for myself playing a badass vampire slayer turned tough LA cheerleader; I have worked with numerous leading men...I can handle a locker room. I have been on Howard Stern and was hired by Kevin Smith for a film where I wore a black leather cat suit and played a member of an international diamond-thief-gang-ring. I do not want to hear that I have a 'humor deficit' or can’t take a joke. I did not over-react. I took a job and, because I did not want to be harassed, I was fired."
Not only, writes Dushku, did Weatherly have her written off the show, he apparently continued to retaliate until her last day. He reportedly sent out a "memo" instructing nobody to comment on Dushku's looks, only to humiliate her during the wrap party by pointedly asking for a "beautiful" woman to come on stage and pull raffle tickets, sarcastically calling her out of the crowd. Dushku categorizes it as "one of the most cruel, most aggressive humiliations" she had ever experienced.
Even once that ordeal was over, she still had a legal battle ahead of her.
"In the settlement process, CBS used as defense a photo of me in a bathing suit, pulled from my own Instagram, as if this suggested I deserved or was not offended by the sexual harassment I experienced," Dushku remembered.
In the end, she was given $9.5 million, which represented a portion of her earnings had she stayed on for her likely six-year contract. Her terms required CBS to hire someone trained in sexual harassment to monitor both Weatherly and Bull, and allowed her to meet with Steven Spielberg (who owns the company that co-produces the show) to tell him what happened on set. That meeting has yet to happen. For now, she has at least told the world her truth.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).