Victims Forum

The Weinstein Scandal: Breaking the Silence Over Sexual Assault

Two decades ago, in what was supposed to be a business breakfast meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein told actress Ashley Judd to meet him in his room. Appearing in a bathrobe, he told her that she could watch him shower and asked her if he could give her a massage.

On October 5, 2017, The New York Times publicly announced that it found three decades worth of other undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein. The allegations asserted that Mr. Weinstein used his status as a top Hollywood producer to sexually harass, assault, oppress, and manipulate women such as Ms. Judd. For thirty years, Mr. Weinstein had managed to cover up an abundance of dirt; his sexual misconduct was documented in emails, legal records, interviews with current and former employees, interviews with film industry workers and internal documents from Mr. Weinstein’s businesses, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.

Mr. Weinstein remained an anonymous perpetrator for over three decades.  He reached more than eight settlements with women for allegations, including but not limited to, unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment. All of his accusers, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, were his subordinates hoping to advance their careers — actresses, assistants, and models. A pile of allegations and reports from over 30 accusers corroborate Mr. Weinstein’s M.O. — hotel meet-ups disguised as business meetings, requested massages, sexual advances preceded by intimidation, and masturbation in front of the victim.

From an outside lens, Mr. Weinstein seemed like the quintessential Hollywood man — the individual to network with in order to reach success in film or television. His accolades overflow. He has six best-picture Oscars. His film and television credits include Project Runway, Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, and even the college sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground. He has won humanitarian awards and presents himself as a liberal, feminist ally. Nevertheless, it was known by individuals internal to his companies that he mistreats women. Unfortunately, Mr. Weinstein’s employees are forced into silence; his employees sign contracts agreeing not to criticize The Weinstein Company or its leaders in a way that could harm any employee’s personal reputation or The Weinstein Company’s reputation. Some of Mr. Weinstein’s victims who accepted settlements and payout, which were roughly between $80,000 and millions of dollars, signed confidential clauses.

On October 15, 2017, Mr. Weinstein sent an email to Hollywood studio executives and Hollywood agents, writing: “Do not let me be fired.”  However, the Weinstein Company has since removed Mr. Weinstein from the company. The Producers Guild of America terminated his membership, stating: “This is a systemic and pervasive problem requiring immediate industrywide action.”

Mr. Weinstein’s controversial behavior in the film industry sheds light and brings much needed attention to injustices that happen every day in all industries — quid pro quo sexual misconduct and the use of power to coerce, force, or manipulate subordinates into sexual favors. One of Mr. Weinstein’s accusers and former employee of the Weinstein Company, Lauren O’Connor’s, wrote a memo that voices the sexual harassment and assault victim’s plight: “I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.”

It is clear now more than ever that Hollywood has many unspoken truths that publicists and lawyers have protected at the expense of sexual assault victims. However, Mr. Weinstein’s victims’ courage to speak up has opened a floodgate for other victims to feel comfortable doing so. Solidarity has proven powerful in a time when an assaulter feels confident that he can continue to sweep under the rug over 30 years of his sexual misconduct. Speaking up has been effective in revealing other powerful men’s sexual harassment and abuse, such as Fox News prime-time host Bill O’Reilly, President Donald Trump, and actor Bill Cosby. These men, and now Mr. Weinstein, have suffered financial, reputational, and professional setbacks because women chose to tell their stories.

Moreover, the Weinstein controversy has encouraged various women in the industry to publicly address their sexual assaulters. Among the list of courageous women are model Cameron Russell, singer Bjork, “Riverdale” actress Lili Reinhart, and the “Inside Edition” correspondent Lisa Guerrero. Actress Alyssa Milano began an online campaign in reaction to Mr. Weinstein’s victims’ bravery to speak out. The campaign encourages women of all walks of life to post the hashtag #metoo on social media forums if they have dealt with sexual harassment or assault. The hashtag was used more than 500,000 times in its first 24 hours of use.

What this means for you is that your voice can be heard regardless of your harasser or assaulter’s job title, status, net worth, or popularity. #Youtoo can see justice and seek damages. You are not alone. Your harasser or assaulter likely had other victims, and together, we can credibly uncover what his power has been able to conceal.  Speak out and join the force of women who together decree #metoo.

 

Teri Gibbs by Teri Gibbs
October 18, 2017

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