Taking a look behind the headlines of #MeToo and Times Up, NEVERTHELESS follows the intimate stories of 7 individuals who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or school context. From a writer's assistant on a top TV show to a Tech CEO and 911 dispatcher, the film shines a light on the ways in which we can shift our culture and rebuild.
Nevertheless we persist.
The 7 intimate portraits include:
Patricia Vargo (911 Dispatcher) was assaulted at work one night by her supervisor in 1997. Even after 10 years working at the San Mateo Country Police Department, her co-workers did not believe her story and she was taken in to an interrogation room for questioning. After a lengthy legal battle ending at the 9th circuit court in California, the judge on her case ultimately determined Patricia’s experience did not meet the legal standard for sexual harassment of “severe or pervasive” behavior – because it only happened one time. Sadly, that same judge who gave the ruling in 2001 stepped down due to sexual harassment allegations of his own in 2017.
Marie Angel Hernandez (Restaurant Worker and Trans Rights Activist) escaped Honduras when she was a teenager to come to America in search of a better life and the freedom to be herself – a trans woman. Unfortunately Texas did not supply her with a better future when her restaurant manager would not allow Marie to present as a female and insisted that if she wanted to keep her job she would have to present as a male. With limited options for income and stability, Marie stayed. After this experience with gender discrimination, Marie now fights for trans workers’ rights.
Tonya Exum (Ford Auto Plant worker) is not only an Iraq war veteran, but also a rape survivor and mother of 2. Tonya’s harassment from co-workers and supervisors at Ford began on her first day on the job more than 7 years ago and has persisted for her entire employment. Despite Tonya’s continued attempts to report the harassment and assault she experiences daily, the behavior continues and Tonya lives in a state of fear and paranoia on her way to work. Tonya is fighting against a decades-long toxic workplace culture at Ford but is determined to make lasting change for herself and other women going through the same thing.
Cheryl Y. Sew Hoy (Tech CEO) was assaulted by a powerful and well known VC in the tech world one night at an after work event at her apartment. Horrified but relieved she was able to escape his advances, Cheryl waited a few years to speak up about her experience knowing well that she would lose her credibility and power in Silicon Valley if she became the victim. Once other women started coming forward Cheryl wrote about the harassment, was issued an “apology” and now fights to create change for other entrepreneurs put in a similar position through her initiative #MovingForward.
Heath Phillips (Navy Veteran) joined the Navy at the ripe age of 17 with his whole life ahead of him, excited and honored to serve. It wasn’t more than a few hours in to his time in the Navy that the unthinkable happened to Heath. A group of 6 men repeatedly raped, sodomized, bullied and harassed him for what became the worst year of his life. None of Heath’s commanding officers believed him every time he reported this abuse. Heath eventually went AWOL and within one year was dishonorably discharged and sent back home to New York with no veterans benefits and a slew of mental health issues. After 20 years without breaking his silence, Heath experienced a miracle and now works as an advocate for other survivors of rape and assault. Almost 30 years to the day after being dishonorably discharged, Heath was finally awarded an honorable discharge and an apology from the Navy confirming that his experiences were valid and real.
Amaani Lyle (Writer’s Assistant on FRIENDS) ended up getting fired from the writing staff after complaining about the hostile work environment she experienced while working on the show. Although Amaani wasn’t harassed directly, she was impacted by vulgar, offensive and objectifying language used by the showrunners and writers on the show and when she spoke up about it, she was let go. Her case was rather infamous in the early 2000s and is still used as an example in law schools across the country as an example of a hostile work environment and free speech debate.
Juliet and Lilly Bond (mother and daughter) fought a sexist dress code at a Midwest middle school – and won. When Lilly came home from 7th grade one day after having been “dress coded” for wearing leggings to school, her Mom was curious as to why. Upon further inquiry she found out that girls were banned from wearing yoga pants or leggings to school because it was “too distracting for the boys.” Juliet wrote a letter in a fury for this offensive policy that supports rape culture and it went viral. For a moment in 2014 the whole country was talking about the leggings debacle – students protested, they went to school board meetings and ultimately the dress code was changed completely to be more inclusive.