Malin DeVoue said that a male engineer at the hotel where she was head cook persistently followed her into the kitchen, asked her to go on dates, stared at her and made her feel “like a piece of meat.”
DeVoue said she reported his conduct to the manager after he did not respond to her requests to keep his distance. Instead of investigating his behavior, she said her supervisor fired her after she took two days off.
“I lost my job even though I was the victim,” DeVoue said.
Soon after, she saw Oprah Winfrey delivering a rousing speech at the Golden Globes, calling on women to speak up about abusive men and declaring, “Their time is up!”
DeVoue felt Winfrey was talking to her.
The 27-year-old cook went online and submitted her story to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, an initiative created by Hollywood stars and activists to help victims of sexual harassment at work, especially those in low-wage jobs. She’s one of 1,569 people who have sought help from the fund since it launched Jan. 1, program officials said.
The fund, which was created in the aftermath of high-profile sexual assault and harassment charges against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and dozens of other famous men, has already raised $20 million to help victims without the means to pay for lawyers and public relations help.
Those resources are now being used to help waitresses, nurses, government employees, sales clerks and women in virtually every field who are coming forward, according new details released by the fund to The Washington Post.
Hundreds of attorneys from around the United States have joined its network. They help with initial free consultations and determine what, if any, legal action should be taken. In select cases, the fund will defray the legal and public relations costs of pursuing harassment complaints and defending against related retaliation.
Some men, too, have contacted the fund to report workplace harassment, but so far they number only 30, or less than 2 percent, of those who have reached out, officials said.
Shonda Rhimes, the TV producer and screenwriter who is a founder of TIME’S UP and a major donor to the legal fund, said she can feel the momentum building to “create real change for the long haul.”
“People are reaching out from all over the world,” said Rhimes.
Tina Tchen, former chief of staff for first lady Michelle Obama and a founder of the fund, said that before it existed, a lot of women didn’t know where to go to get help.