Recently, our news outlets and social media accounts have been inundated with details of another case of sexual assault taking place within Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein, an American film producer and former film studio executive is accused of sexually harassing, assaulting or raping over a dozen women, whilst subsequent allegations of harassment have also arisen from a plethora of other women within the film industry. But it is not the allegations that particularly surprise me, it’s the reaction thousands making light of the situation, attacking the women brave enough to speak out and making a mockery of what is truly one of the most grotesque exploitations of power and societal standing.
He not only completely exploited the trust of these women, but utilised his standing between them and their dreams to his own, sick advantage. Hollywood has been long described as a culture that runs on fear, sex and the perversity of those in charge. There have been accusations of sexual assault by those in the highest positions of power within the industry, yet we are now becoming more aware as a result of the emergence of social media platforms, and the medias right to freedom of speech… but is it just celebrity sexual assault we want to hear about? Many people will know about Harvey Weinstein, but do they know about the half a million adults that are sexually assaulted in the UK every year?
How is it that, according to Rape Crisis England and Wales’, 202,666 women a year, or nearly 4,000 a week reached out to ‘Rape Crisis Centres’ last year, but it only takes 1 celebrity scandal for us to really talk about the issue? Is sexual assault something that we need the highest members of society to commit in order for it to be deemed ‘news worthy?’ Arguably, yes unfortunately we do. One of the most powerful men to exist, the leader of the free world and the President of the United States, Donald Trump, was accused of sexual assault, caught on film joking about assault and has alluded to his acceptance of sexually assaulting women on a plethora of occasions… yet he was never dealt with. As a result of his victim simply not having the star quality of Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltro, she was pushed aside and forgotten about.
It could be argued that victim’s will only be heard if they have the right name, and even then, they are faced with the same blame that thousands of women face every day. Sadly, victim blaming and sexual violence often go hand in hand and this blame serves no other purpose than to release the men who commit sexual violence from the responsibility of what they have done; it only takes a few scrolls on Twitter to immediately see this occurring. This blame culture is not only visible amongst twitter trolls, but with other celebrities such as Mayim Bialik and Wendy Williams. Although both parties apologised, their first instinct was to blame the women who were victims of this sexual violence, a similar first response to thousands of social media users.
However, this victim blame is thankfully clouded by the plethora of posts of #MeToo across social media. Just days after the beginning of the Weinstein case, platforms became inundated with the hashtag #MeToo, a campaign started by actress Alyssa Milano that saw more than 500,000 women in the first 24 hours use the hashtag #MeToo to acknowledge that they had dealt with sexual harassment or assault in their lifetimes. If there is one movement of information to come out of this horrendous ordeal for those 30 + women that highlights how truly unstuck Weinstein, and other media moguls attempts to hide the disturbing truth of sexual assault in the highest ranks of society had become, it was this. It could be argued that the world is finally taking this male issue seriously. However, it could also be argued it’s only being more seriously if you’re a celebrity…
Stars such as Kesha and Lady Gaga have openly talked about their own experiences of sexual assault by those in high positions of power and the lack of support, belief and understanding they received. It is cases like this that highlight although sexual assault is demonised and condemned more frequently when it is in reference to celebrities, women of all walks of life, including a select few celebrities, are still dealing with the fact that sexual assault victims are simply not believed and are blamed. Victim blame is rife in society, and it is not until we have abolished any stigma around women who face the reality of sexual assault that they can truly begin to heal, both those who have come forward and those who hide in the shadows.
Why is it that it seems men and women have to be world wide stars to be even partially believed so that people to understand that sexual assault is very real, and happens every single day to those nameless women caught in the thousands of statistics.
No one ever asks for it.