Lawyers: Secrets, abuse can thrive under cover of NDAs

By Mary Markos
July 29, 2019

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian

Numerous lawyers argue that nondisclosure agreements do not belong in government, raising concerns about perpetuating inappropriate conduct and a lack of transparency.

“Nondisclosure agreements help sexual abuse to continue,” said Boston-based attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented victims in clergy sexual abuse cases. “The abuser can continue to abuse, and the public is not made aware of an existing safety concern. It is shocking to think the government would favor secrecy over transparency in such situations.”

The agreements waive a victim’s right to file a lawsuit or speak out about their experiences, but some politicians, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Speaker Robert DeLeo, have kept the practice in state government “if the victim wants one.”

This type of rhetoric is “the ultimate insult,” Boston attorney Wendy Murphy argued, because it exploits the victim’s “legitimate” privacy concerns and anticipates the misconduct is going to continue.

“It’s turning it into a right to privacy around what is often criminal activity, and you don’t privatize criminal activity,” Murphy said. “NDAs are a manufactured excuse not to tell the public what it has a right to know.”

The issue is “complicated,” according to Boston criminal defense attorney and author Peter Elikann, because it appears to take the choice away from the victim.

“The victim might want protection against being badmouthed afterwards by the abuser,” Elikann said. “However, it may not be a voluntary choice since victims are often coerced to sign nondisclosure agreements that can work to the benefit of the abuser as this lack of transparency covers up the misdeeds and fails to warn the perpetrator’s potential future victims.”



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