When I worked in the counseling office of a middle school (6th-8th grades), the school implemented a peer mediation program. Eighth graders were trained to mediate a grievance between two other students.
Over the three years I ran the program, we mediated over 300 sessions. The pattern was simple. The person with a grievance completed a request for a mediation. It included the name of the other person, and what the problem was. When in the mediation, the aggrieved party said “I feel _____________ when you _____________. The next time please [fill in the action that would be acceptable].
The real magic happened when the person behaving badly had to repeat back how the other person felt, what he/she was doing to cause that feeling, and what was expected the “next time.”
The two signed a form that committed the mediation to paper, and that was that. In all the mediations I oversaw, not one was a repeat.
What would happen if peer mediation came to Hollywood.
Imagine, say, George Clooney and Emma Thompson as the peer mediators.
An actress requests a mediation with Harvey Weinstein, completing the form:
I feel violated and disrespected when you put your hands on me and make sexual innuendos and advances. The next time I would like you to behave professionally and treat me with respect, and keep your hands to yourself and not make sexual innuendos and advances.
In the mediation, the actress reads her feelings, experience and expectations to Weinstein, who must repeat back:
You feel violated and disrespected when I put my hands on you and make sexual advances. The next time you would like me to behave professionally and treat you with respect, and keep my hands to myself and not make sexual innuendos and advances.
Think about it. Weinstein doesn’t get to hide behind nondisclosure settlements. His money doesn’t buy a pass to allow him to do it again. There would be no explaining or justifying of behavior. He is shamed before his peers by hearing how his behavior makes another person feel, then having to repeat it back.
By the way, this “Hollywood” mediation would be confidential among the four parties involved. It would not be a prelude to or could be a part of any lawsuit. It is about having an accuser being heard, and the accused having to repeat (if not internalize) the other person’s feelings.
Going back to a middle school mediation
I had a flurry of sixth grade girls request a mediation with a single boy in their class. He was cute and they liked him, but he was making fun of them, and they didn’t like it.
Two mediations were held with him over a lunchtime.
The next day, two more mediations were held. After the last one, I told him I had six more girls who requested mediations. He said, “I get it, I get it. I won’t do it anymore!”
Over the next few days, I checked in with the girls whose mediations had yet to be held, and they said they didn’t need it anymore. He was very nice now, and they didn’t want to make him feel “bad.”
Simplistic for Hollywood?
Perhaps. But shame and accountability could be much more powerful than a lawsuit. If all the Hollywood celebrities who have been incensed by Weinstein’s behavior worked to establish a “Hollywood” peer mediation program, I believe it could put a stop to the Weinsteins in their midst.