Those of us who have suffered the humiliation of sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and child sexual abuse are not going to take it anymore. That pretty much includes every woman on the planet.
No one knew about Harvey Weinstein? Give me a break.
- In 2004, The New York Times “gutted” a story about sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein written by their own reporter, Sharon Waxman. Veteran Hollywood reporter Kim Masters wrote that Waxman tried to break the story in 2004, but after pressure from Weinstein and calls from defenders Russell Crowe and Matt Damon, The Times buried it.
- The Weinstein Board of Directors has been plagued with lawsuits and settlements and has been aware of payouts since 2015.
- In mid August of this year, NBC punted on Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein expose, saying it was “unreportable.”
- Both the New York City Police Department and one of its District Attorneys claimed they didn’t have a case against Weinstein despite evidence, including a sting tape set up by the Special Victims Unit. After 22-year-old actress Ambra Battilana Gutierrez formally complained to the cops that Weinstein had groped and sexually assaulted her in 2015, she agreed to wear a wire.
- When Seth MacFarlane announced the Oscar nominees in 2013, he addressed the women vying for Best Actress, adding, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”
- Rose McGowan stated she told Ben Affleck about Weinstein during shooting of the movie Phantoms, but Affleck remained silent.
- For more than twenty years, Weinstein, who is now sixty-five, has been trailed by reports of sexual harassment and assault.
- Female executives with the Weinstein company described how women at the company allegedly served as a “honeypot,” joining a meeting then leaving a woman Weinstein was attracted to alone with him in the room.
Had any of these people– organizations, boards of directors, media outlets, police, district attorney’s offices– brought the issue to light, even one woman could have been saved the loss of her humanity, her happiness, and her soul.
- Gwyneth Paltrow, star of Weinstein productions “Emma” and “Shakespeare in Love,” explained, “I was expected to keep the secret.” Paltrow called him Uncle Harvey. Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow’s boyfriend at time of alleged sexual harassment, confronted Weinstein regarding his mistreatment of Paltrow but never went public about it.
- Angelina Jolie said that during the release of “Playing By Heart” in the late 1990’s, Weinstein made unwanted advances on her in a hotel room, which she rejected. Jolie states, “I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, choose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” she said via e-mail to the New York Times.
- Rosanna Arquette, a star of “Pulp Fiction,” reported that she had had a similar experience at a Beverly Hills hotel, when she worked with Weinstein. She told him “I’ll never do that,” and he responded she was making a huge mistake. She claims her career later suffered.
- Asia Argento alleges that Weinstein raped her in 1997 when she was 21. She felt guilty about what she described as a “horrible trauma” and didn’t speak out because she was afraid Weinstein would “crush” her.
- Mira Sorvino, the “Mighty Aphrodite” actress, found herself alone with Weinstein in his hotel room in 1995, where she alleges he chased her around the room. She believes rejecting his advances damaged her career.
- British actress Dix was 22 when Weinstein allegedly invited her to his room at the Savoy Hotel. “As soon as I was in there, I realized it was a terrible mistake,” she says
- Thirty-two women, from Kate Beckinsale and Cara Delavigne to Heather Graham and others have stepped forward with allegations about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
- An investigation by The Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein “stretching over nearly three decades.”
- Eight settlements with women against Weinstein were reached during that time period, according to two company officials who told the New York Times on condition of anonymity. One was with an assistant of Weinstein’s in New York in 1990, another was by an actress in 1997, still another with an assistant in London in 1998 and yet another was by an Italian model in 2015.
- Katherine Kendell said on CNN yesterday that as a young actress, “A naked Weinstein chased me around the room in 1993. He wouldn’t let me get to the door.”
- Journalist Rebecca Traister wrote that in 2000, while covering a pre-election party Weinstein was throwing, Weinstein called her a “cunt” in response to a question he didn’t like. He then threw another reporter down a flight of stairs and dragged him outside in a headlock.
And No one Knew About Harvey Weinstein or Suspected?
This story was widely understood, talked about, and accepted. It was Hollywood’s “open secret.” There were jokes about it on 30 Rock, jokes about it at the Oscars. Think of all of the women who could have been saved the humiliation, degradation, and sexual dehumanization, if The New York Times had run the story in 2004, if NBC had run Ronan Farrow’s story about the incidents, if the NYPD and District Attorney had done their jobs, if A-list actors had spoken up and broken the conspiracy of silence, if sexual assault attorney Lisa Bloom had refused to stand by an alleged predator for a full year and had stopped excusing his sexual harassment behavior. She claimed, “He is an old dinosaur and learning new ways,” but if she had shaken her self-serving denial, a lot of women could have been saved. You are all culpable. Evil prevails when good people do nothing.
Why Didn’t the Women with the Platform Come Forward?
It’s simple: as women, we’ve had our voices silenced and our humanity stolen by sexual assault, sexual violence, manipulation, rape, and child sexual abuse. This abhorrent behavior will continue long after the Weinstein story has died down because there will always be powerful men taking advantage of less powerful women and children. Each time, our culture will act shocked, the stories will make headlines for a few weeks, and then predators will go back to hunting their prey and society will go back to pretending it doesn’t happen. This cycle only serves to silence and blame the victim.
MY FRIENDS: THE ELEPHANT IS IN THE ROOM. ALL OF OUR ROOMS. SEXUAL ASSAULT, SEXUAL VIOLENCE, CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IS EVERYWHERE! A PANDEMIC! Endemic! As we’re slowly admitting in mainstream media, it’s in our families, on our college campuses, in sports, in the Olympics, and in the Boy Scouts; it’s in churches, schools, offices, neighborhoods, and homes. In every career field, every profession, there exists instances of sexual harassment, assault, manipulation, and discrimination. In every intimate relationship type, in every family dynamic type, there exists sexual abuse, sexual disrespect, manipulation, and violence. None of us are immune. Open your eyes and be willing to have the conversation without turning away. Then, help to fix it.
Ronan Farrow said it best in The New Yorker: “More established actresses were fearful of speaking out because they had work; less established ones were scared because they did not.” The less powerful or even the more ambitious of us, those trying to make their way to find a better life and achieve a dream, are the most vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The predators can smell our hunger, our not yet actualized talent, and our desire to try, and they destroy us for it.
There will always be that desperate starlet who puts up with the groping, degradation, humiliation, even rape to break into the male-dominated field of moviemaking. “It goes with the territory,” said a young, beautiful actress friend of mine. “You have to put up, shut up, and put out to get anywhere in this business. It’s the magic castle and only those who open their legs and bodies to the movie moguls gain access.”
Make no mistake about it. What Harvey Weinstein allegedly did was degrading, sexually humiliating, depraved, and shameful. I know. I’ve experienced this kind of sexual assault, rape, humiliation, and child sexual abuse. And I’m not alone. One in four girls and one in five boys are victims of sexual abuse before their eighteenth birthday. One in five college students will be sexually assaulted before graduation. Statistically, every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted. One in three women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their life. When it happens to you, it takes away your humanity. Your life is taken and forever altered. I know what it feels like: it’s what the Weinstein victims felt, feared, and fretted with.
Stop Blaming the Victim!
If you don’t believe there is wholesale victim blaming when these types of allegations surface, just look at the statement fashion icon Donna Karan made to the Daily Mail from the red carpet this week. Karan came to her pal Harvey Weinstein’s defense, saying, “These women were asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality… Look at… how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do.” Excuse me, Donna Karan: that’s rich. Women are dressing in the “asking for it” clothes you and your brethren have designed and sold to them, which in turn has set the standard for women’s sexuality and sensuality. And yet, when we wear your garments, your perfume, and your handbags, you accuse us of dressing in a fashion that asks for sexual violence? Let us not forget, that the fashion industry, from interns to photographers to models, is one of the most sexually assaultive, abusive, body shaming, humiliating industries to women and children worldwide.
Violating Women’s Human Rights is Cultural
What Mr. Weinstein allegedly did is a microcosm of our cultural misogyny, hatred, and contempt for women. When the President of the United States brags about grabbing women “by the pussy” and notes, “I moved on her like a bitch,” and not only gets a free pass on sexual assault without real accountability or consequences but also gets elected to become the leader of the free world– even by Born Again Christians, it’s in the air we breathe. It’s not a Trump problem or a Weinstein problem or a Cosby problem; it’s a cultural problem. We live in a culture that degrades and devalues women but supports, embraces, elects, and reveres money, power, fame, celebrity, and access, all at women’s expense. We live in a culture that turns the other cheek to any and all dirty behavior in Trump’s words, “If you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” The world hates women, degrades women, and wishes women would just shut up and take it like a starlet.
There isn’t a woman alive that hasn’t been “Weinsteined” to some extent, whether it was being groped by a pimply boss at the burger joint, rubbed up against at the law firm, raped on a college campus, or sexually violated as a child. None of us escapes it. Yes, I mean YOU. You are a victim of it, too.
The Solution to End Sexual Violence Against Women and Children
It can’t just end with one person’s disgraceful behavior.
The Weinstein horror has to shine a bright spotlight on this kind of behavior anywhere, any time. Many of us have been fighting on the front lines of this issue for decades with little to show for it in terms of real legal and social change. I worked for five years with my law partner to get legislation passed in California to extend the Statute of Limitations both civil and criminal, for victims of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape, and I recently consulted on the “Cosby bill,” eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for rape, sexual assault, and continuous child sexual abuse in the state.
The time has come for all of us to stand together: Hollywood A-listers and the hundreds of thousands of victims whose closest encounters with the silver screen involve sitting in the dark with a bag of buttery popcorn on their laps. We need to break silence and take action because we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore! ENOUGH! LET’S DO SOMETHING AND STOP THE BLAME GAME. Let’s make sexual predation illegal and actionable. Let’s go after these predators and stop the wholesale stealing of our humanity, our dignity, and our rights to the pursuit of happiness.
Social and Legal Action is Required to End Sexual Violence.
“Being sexually abused at such an early age was the scar on my soul. But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I went through to be here. But now it’s time to take action to save the next generation of women and children from what we went the
Shari Karney is a survivor’s attorney. She represents victims of child sexual abuse by sexual predators such as a member of the clergy, a teacher, celebrity, sports coach, wealthy businessman or any other powerful person, Karney Law is here for you.