Behind some of America’s most iconic movies — “Pulp Fiction,” “Gangs of New York” and “Shakespeare in Love” — sits a man best known for his place behind the camera. Now, dozens of sexual assault allegations have landed him under a new limelight.
That man is Harvey Weinstein. Formerly known film producer, now sexual assault perpetrator.
On October 5, The New York Times published an article about Weinstein with accusations of sexual misconduct, and supported this statement with the stories of some of the victims themselves, like his former employee Laura Madden and actress Ashley Judd. Weinstein’s name has since turned from one that is associated with popular Hollywood movies to that of a notorious sex offender.
Many have spoken out about his inappropriate and volatile behaviors towards over 80 women, who claim to have had a direct experience of assault or psychological abuse by Weinstein. Often, Weinstein had silenced victims with money, according to Business Insider.
His victims include big names such as actresses Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne, as well as lesser known names, such as former assistants Zelda Perkins and Lisa Rose. People have started accusing him of sexual misconduct since the 1970’s with the most common allegations being groping, forced kissing and rape.
Senior Priscilla Siow, who thinks that sexual assault is a prominent issue in Hollywood, speaks out about her view on Weinstein’s accusations.
“I initially thought that ‘Oh! Here’s another male assaulting women,’” Siow said. “It’s not a rare case. He obviously wouldn’t have gotten caught if these women didn’t have the ability to speak up.”
With more than 80 accusers, the general public is beginning to question why Weinstein has not faced any punishment. So far, the only consequences to his actions was a week-long stay, during the last week of October, at an Arizona rehabilitation center as well as a series of settlements. According to multiple reports, Weinstein has yet to face legal repercussions.
Some women, like actresses Asia Argento and Rose McGowan, have hidden their stories for more than 20 years. Kate Beckinsale was only 17 years old when Weinstein came up to her in nothing but a bathrobe.
Siow believes that this is just another case of a well known name performing discreditable deeds.
“I read that a lot of these women didn’t want to speak up because he was their boss,” Siow said. “It’s just this typical power play of men abusing their privileges and rights and then harassing women.”
The growing list of names has stripped Weinstein of his company and has caused him to be turned down for million-dollar projects and his celebrated Academy membership.
In an email interview with Vanity Fair, Amy Ziering, producer of the “Harvey Weinstein—Distributed Rape Documentary,” said, in response to Weinstein’s deteriorating image, “For the first time in our lifetimes, blame is finally shifting from victims to perpetrators.”
Still, ripples of fear have made their way through America’s film industries as more and more people identify household names to be sexual predators, cumulating to a list of more than 25 men. Names on this list include, comedian Bill Cosby, journalist Bill O’Reilly, producer Brett Ratner, actor Dustin Hoffman, screenwriter James Toback, actor Ben Affleck, actor Kevin Spacey and recently, comedian Louis C.K..
Hidden repeated sexual offences are not a new phenomenon, so people wonder why Weinstein’s actions are only being exposed now. Junior Animesh Agrawal believes a lack of legal consequences for sexual predators is the driving factor for the persistence of unrecognized sexual assault cases in Hollywood. Agrawal believes that for Weinstein, it ultimately boils down to power.
“Let’s, for a moment, imagine Weinstein was a member of a minority group, and he lived in a poor district, and he did this to rich white women,” Agrawal said. “Then, I’m pretty sure he’d be sent to jail for a long, long, long time. But, just because he’s such a rich and powerful person, he’s not facing that same standard of justice.”
Ziering has a similar opinion, explaining that the culture of our society has allowed for such cases to continue.
“We live in a culture that can be exceptionally cruel to women,” Ziering said. “Particularly women who in any way seek to challenge unbridled male power.”
Weinstein’s allegations have also sparked the recently-trending hashtag #MeToo on Twitter. According to CNN, the hashtag helped to start conversations on sexual harassment and dissolve the stigma associated with it, especially in places, such as India, where it is often considered a taboo. A #MeToo survivor march also took place on November 12.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) October 15, 2017
Because I was shamed and considered a “party girl” I felt I deserved it. I shouldnt have been there, I shouldn’t have been “bad” #metoo
— #EvanRachelWould (@evanrachelwood) October 16, 2017
As a male childhood rape survivor who has gone public and had so many disclose to me, I promise: any rape stat you see is low. #MeToo
— Barry Crimmins (@crimmins) October 15, 2017
As #MeToo has successfully persisted in bringing light to widespread cases of rape and sexual assault, Agrawal believes that it is ultimately up to society to sympathize with and actively consider the victim’s side of the story.
“I think a large part of it just comes down to believing people when they make these accusations,” Agrawal said. “A large reason this was put off for so long is because we have a ‘hush hush’ culture … and I think that’s the wrong attitude … It’s extremely important that a [victim]get the respect and consideration that they deserve.”
In the past year itself, dozens of marches and protests have been held across the country by women to let the public know that their rights are human rights. By gathering all of these stories, victims of sexual assault can only hope that they are used as a powerful weapon against assaulters.