Sexual abuse rampant, action not so much
Jokes have been made for decades about what an aspiring actress needs to do in order to get her big break. Actors were rumored to have slept with this producer or that director in order to get ahead in the entertainment industry, otherwise known as the “Casting Couch.”
In October 2017, The New York Times published an exposé revealing sexual assault and harassment allegations against big-wig producer Harvey Weinstein — and no one was laughing.
The story created the “Weinstein effect,” where thousands of people came out and said “#MeToo.” The movement spread from Hollywood all the way to the USA Gymnastics National Team and beyond.
The watershed moment led to people who came forward with their allegations to be named collectively as as “The Silence Breakers,” and being named TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”
Through all of the allegations, legal battles, resignations and firings, one question has been asked repeatedly — how did this go on for so long?
Some of Weinstein’s accusers said that he assaulted them all the way back in the 1980s, and other celebrities like Jane Fonda and Quentin Tarantino said that they had heard of stories but declined to take action.
It seems that every institution in the world has been plagued by abuse scandals. And it was all perpetrated because people in power took advantage of those who weren’t, and others turned a blind eye.
In the early 2000s, The Boston Globe ran more than 600 stories detailing systemic abuse by Catholic priests in the diocese, with evidence showing that it may have been happening all over the world. In 2015, the film “Spotlight” showed the investigative team that reported the story. I didn’t even know about that story until I saw the movie, which just goes to show how quickly the world can move on from such moments.
The Catholic Church not only covered up the abuse, they basically allowed it to continue happening by moving priests from one diocese to another, even though they knew they were predators.
In 2011, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa. reported on the grand jury investigation into Jerry Sandusky, assistant coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions football team. The story didn’t gain much traction until charges were filed against him — 45 counts of sexual abuse spanning two decades. Several other Penn State officials were ousted for their involvement in the cover up. Sandusky received a sentence of up to 60 years in prison in 2012, and again the world moved on.
In 2014, accusations against comedian Bill Cosby arose once again, like they had in the early 2000s, after another comedian, Hannibal Buress, alluded to the allegations in a stand-up comedy routine. Although the accusations had been brought forth in the past, the 2014 allegations stuck.
Cosby’s abuse allegations span more than 40 years with more than a dozen women coming forward with their stories. Cosby was charged with three Class II felonies of aggravated indecent assault but his June 2017 case ended in a mistrial. Despite all the women who came forward, people relentlessly defended Cosby becoming complicit in the abuse.
In 2014, singer Kesha sued music producer Dr. Luke, claiming sexual assault and battery, and sexual harassment among other things. The trial was highly publicized with many petitions being formed to “free Kesha” from her contract. In 2016, her claims were dismissed by New York Judge Shirley Kornreich. Some people thought Kesha deserved what she got because of her “trashy-glam” image.
In 2015, Standford University student-athlete Brock Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault. The case garnered widespread media attention, especially on college campuses where “11.2 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation,” according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Turner was only sentenced to six months in county jail and three years of probation, in order to save his potential athletic career.
This is how abuse is perpetrated by institutions. The criminal justice system failed the women who came forward with their testimonies by prioritizing a rapist over them just because he was an athlete — it’s as if they weren’t capable of having brighter futures than him.
In 2016, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes, former chairman of Fox News, which led to his resignation in July of that year. He was granted a $40 million severance package upon his resignation. Afterwards, several other female employees of Fox News came forward and revealed that they had spoken to Fox News executives about Ailes, but all were either dismissed or given settlements.
Fox political commentator Bill O’Reilly was also named as having sexually harassed female employees and had settled several cases stemming back from 2004. He was fired in 2017. Despite settling more than $50 million worth of complaints against him, O’Reilly maintains his innocence. You don’t settle $50 million worth of claims if you’re innocent.
Actors such as Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Piven, Louis C.K., Steven Seagal, Ed Westwick, Dustin Hoffman, James Woods, Jeffrey Tambor, James Franco, Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Ben Affleck and Aziz Ansari have all been accused of sexual assault. Singers R. Kelly, Melanie Martinez, Miguel and rapper XXXTentacion have all been accused of sexual assault.Then the Weinstein story broke in 2017 and it became almost like a joke with how many people were accused of assault. Prominent people from various industries were named and essentially “taken down.”
Filmmakers Brett Ratner and James Toback have been accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than 400 women between them (with Toback accounting for at least 358 of them). Celebrated filmmakers such as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have been slammed for former allegations brought against them, with many actors refusing to work with either one of them, and donating previous salaries form their movies to charities.
Within the last three months, former osteopathic physician for the USA Gymnastic national team Larry Nassar’s abuse has been sensationalized throughout the media. More than 150 girls testified against him in court, and there were still more who had been abused by him. The world was shocked and outraged — as they should have been.
During the investigation into Nassar’s time at Michigan State University, it was discovered that the first accusations of sexual abuse were reported in the early 1990s, and nothing was done. Since Nassar’s downfall, two MSU officials, Mark Hollis, the athletic director and Lou Anna K. Simon, the university’s president have resigned. Simon’s departure, however, was almost a reward. She will continue to be paid her annual salary of $750,000 for another year, afterwards she will be paid around $563,000. She will also be able to return as MSU faculty and receive fringe benefits awarded to an university officer.
Sexual assault and harassment in Washington D.C. has also been rumored for years. Right now, President Donald Trump has 17 sexual assault and harassment claims against him, which for some reason isn’t as big of a deal as it should be. People pretended to be disgusted in October 2016 when the now-infamous “Access Hollywood Tape” came out, yet more than 60 million people voted for him and he now holds the highest office in the U.S. Billy Bush, who was also on that tape, was fired from the “Today Show,” but Trump gets to run the country.
Former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton have also been accused of assault, as have Sen. Al Franken and Rep. John Conyers. Alabama Judge Roy Moore was accused of assaulting several girls, some of whom were minors, yet still almost won election to the Senate.
So how did everyone get away this for so long? By throwing money at those who were abused. By blaming the people who came forward and depicting them as sluts or money-grabbers or misunderstood. By believing a rapist over their victim. By downgrading what should be harsh sentences to menial jail time. By ignorance.
These are just the stories that have been published — for every story we hear, there are a thousand more from people all over the world that we don’t hear — people who aren’t famous and don’t have the same opportunities to come forward with their stories and get justice.
If these stories make you feel sick, they should. This is a reality for so many people, but we can help.
If we see someone being assaulted or harassed, we should step in. If it is safe, we should confront the perpetrator. If it is not safe, we should call security or the police.
If anyone has been assaulted or harrassed, it is important that we report it. Nothing changes if nothing is done.
There are centers in and around Beaumont where we can receive help.
Most importantly, don’t participate in “victim blaming.” We owe it to survivors to hear their stories and to believe them.
No one in any position is ever allowed to take advantage of another person without their consent. No more cover ups.
Victims shouldn’t feel like they can’t come forward because their abuser will be protected more than they will.
Enough is enough.
Story package by Olivia Malick, UP staff writer