Zelda Perkins, the former assistant to Harvey Weinstein who accused him of attempting to rape a colleague of theirs 19 years ago, sat down with BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday in her first televised interview.
Over the course of her sit-down, she said a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) prevented her from speaking out about the “repulsive monster” and “master manipulator” sooner, and called for a change in the law around gag order, which she says enables the rich and powerful to cover up sexual assault.
In October, Perkins — who worked for Miramax Films in the UK in the 1990s — broke the NDA she signed two decades ago in an interview with The Financial Times, where she first alleged Weinstein had assaulted a friend of hers at the Venice Film Festival in 1998. (Weinstein has previously denied all accusations of sexual assault against him).
“The last 19 years have been distressing, where I’ve not been allowed to speak, where I’ve not been allowed to be myself,” Perkins said.
She explained that she signed the NDA in 1998 when she was 24 and received a £125,000 ($168,000 U.S.) buyout — though was never allowed to receive a copy of the agreement.
Elsewhere in the 23-minute interview, Perkins recounted seeing her unnamed colleague after Weinstein’s alleged attempted rape at the Venice Film Festival.
“She was shaking, very distressed, and clearly in shock,” Perkins said. “She didn’t want anybody to know and was absolutely terrified of the consequences. I spoke with her and tried to calm her down before confronting Harvey face to face.”
“We returned to the UK and I spoke to my only senior in the Miramax offices and she suggested I got a lawyer so we both resigned from the company, [feeling] constructively dismissed because of his behavior,” Perkins recounted. “The lawyers made it clear that we didn’t have many options because we hadn’t gone to the police when we were in Venice and we didn’t have any physical evidence.”
They both then signed the gag order feeling it would be impossible to take on the film mogul themselves. “Ultimately, it would be two under-25 women’s word against Harvey Weinstein, Miramax and essentially the Disney company,” Perkins said.
Giving them comfort was the fact that the gag order insisted Weinstein would have to attend therapy sessions — though Perkins said she was never told whether or not Weinstein did.
Looking back, Perkins admitted that she knew of Weinstein’s reputation before he was hired, but took the job anyway.
In response to Perkins’ BBC interview, Paul Tweed issued a statement on behalf of Weinstein denying the allegations. “Mr. Weinstein categorically denies engaging in any non-consensual conduct or alleged threatening behavior and will seek the protection of the U.K. or Irish Courts if you proceed with the broadcast of these allegations,” the statement said, CBS News reported.
A representative has not yet responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Weinstein, 65, has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 60 women since The New York Times and The New Yorker documented decades of alleged sexual misconduct and sexual assault involving a number of women in detailed articles in October.
A spokesperson for Weinstein previously told PEOPLE in a statement that “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”