by Caroline Cubbage
Photograph courtesy of Creative Commons via David Shankbone
Over the past several weeks, various accusations have come to light about cases of sexual harassment within the film and television industry, the most notable of these being Harvey Weinstein. So far, Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault, harassment, and rape by 76 different women (USA Today 2017).
The sudden rush of victims to come forward was sparked by an exposé published by the New York Times on October 5th, detailing several instances of sexual harassment and assault of various celebrities by Weinstein (New York Times 2017). Not long after this initial article, many more alleged victims have come forward to share their own stories.
The onslaught of victims who have come forth with their accusations have caught the attention of the media and the public at large, sparking a conversation about sexual harassment and abuse across the world. The phrase “me too” began to circulate social media platforms after actor Alyssa Milano, who has been very vocal against Weinstein, tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet” (The Guardian 2017). Actors, politicians and civilians alike took to their profiles and shared intimate stories about instances where they were sexually threatened; others simply stated, “me too”.
The “me too” movement has been a positive to emerge from this catastrophe, unifying all those who have been sexually abused and harassed in their lives. It has given victims the courage to come forward publicly and embrace their suffering and turn it into something powerful, perhaps even comforting those that live in silenced pain.
Other alleged sexual offenders have been exposed as well because of the uproar against Weinstein, among them actor Kevin Spacey and director Brett Ratner. There is truth in the saying that “courage lies in numbers” as it seems that with each new victim accusation come five more. It will be interesting to see who else is exposed at long last, as some victims have been waiting over 20 years to share their stories.
Because of the accusations and impending investigations by police, Harvey Weinstein has been fired from Miramax and Weinstein Brothers, losing his stake in the company fortune, as well as stripped of other film association memberships and board positions. While it seems that karma and justice have paid Weinstein a visit, true restitution for his actions will most likely never be reached, at least in the eyes of his victims.
The odds that he is convicted and sent to jail are slim, as it is with most sexual abusers in power, especially white men. Due to the lack of evidence and the amount of time that has passed between most of the crimes and now, Weinstein will likely never see the inside of a jail cell.
The “me too” movement is just a small step towards dealing with sexual assault properly as a society. It has so long been a topic of taboo, as is illustrated by the fact that so many of Weinstein’s accusers were too terrified to come forward sooner. Legally, rape and sexual assault have always been difficult to prosecute often because of lack of physical proof. As a result, attackers go free and victims are left with mental and physical scars to last a lifetime, feeling alone and not receiving the support that they need from those around them.
The fear of addressing sexual assault and abuse for what it is is poisonous and toxic to the progress we should be making in this area as a society. It shouldn’t take a man allegedly abusing 76 women to make us realize that something must change. And more so, we should not let the fact that a man has allegedly abused 76 women pass us by without a second thought. The stigma surrounding rape culture is stopping us as a society from making change in how we help victims get justice.
Our biggest mistake as a society would be to shrug our shoulders and say, “oh well”, as we so often do in cases like these. There must be a change in how we deal with rape culture in our society. With the incredibly fast turn around in the news cycle, stories like this makes front page for a stint and then are slowly pushed down to the bottom of the pile by the endless stream of pop culture nonsense that so frequently gets classified as “breaking news”.
We shouldn’t be satisfied with the fact that Weinstein lost his job because of his actions, we should be fighting for more, for justice. We cannot let what happened with the allegations against Donald Trump during his campaign happen again. We cannot let this sink down.