Time to stop turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct


Moss Brennan, Reporter

Warning: details about sexual assault

Ashley Judd. Rose McGowan. Ambra Battilana. Emily Nestor. Lauren O’Connor. Laura Madden. These are just a few of the women who have said Harvey Weinstein has sexaully assualted or harrased them.

On Oct. 5, a New York Times story by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey revealed allegations that led to the resignation of four members of the Weinstein Company’s board, and called for Weinstein to be fired.

The Weinstein Company board was all male.

In a 10-month investigative article for The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow, 13 women came forward about Weinstein’s sexual harassment or said that he sexually assaulted them.

Three of the women told Farrow that Weinstein “had raped them, forcibly performing or receiving oral sex or forcing vaginal sex.” Four of the women told Farrow that “they had experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault.”

Four of the women also stated that Weinstein had “exposed himself or masturbated in front of them.”

Weinstein admitted to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and said that he was “used to” that behavior in a recording during a New York Police Department sting operation.

Sixteen former and current executives and assistants told Farrow that they “witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein’s films and in the workplace.”

They also said that the behavior was well known in Miramax, a production and distribution company that Weinstein helped co-found, and in the Weinstein Company.

One thing that almost all of the people Farrow talked to had in common was that they were afraid of retaliation from Weinstein. They feared that they would have information planted in the media about them as Weinstein had bragged about doing that to those who spoke against him.

In an interview with The New York Post Weinstein said, “I’ve got to deal with my personality, I’ve got to work on my temper, I have got to dig deep. I know a lot of people would like me to go into a facility, and I may well just do that—I will go anywhere I can learn more about myself.” He continued, “In the past I used to compliment people, and some took it as me being sexual, I won’t do that again.”

Weinstein also said in a statement for The New York Times that he knew that his behavior in the past caused a lot of pain and that he apologizes for it. He also said, “I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

In a statement by spokesperson Sallie Hofmeister, Weinstein unequivocally denied “any allegations of nonconsensual sex” from those who spoke on record and that he “believes that all of these relationships were consensual.”

The statement also said that Weinstein has begun going to counseling to pursue a better path and that if he makes enough progress, he hopes to be given a second chance.

According to a report done by The Hill, Weinstein completed a week-long therapy program in Arizona. He will remain in Arizona for a month and continue working with the doctors.

The full statement, along with more details on the accusations, can be found in the article by Farrow.

On Oct. 19, a report by CNN said that Los Angeles police had opened an investigation into Weinstein after someone came forward alleging sexual assault.

The person wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation but told the Los Angeles Times the assault took place in February 2013 at Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel.

After The New York Times report, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rosanna Arquette, Angelina Jolie, Judith Godrèche and others also came out saying that Weinstein had made unwanted sexual advances on them.

Many people both in and out of Hollywood reacted to the accusations leveled against Weinstein.

Benedict Cumberbatch said in a statement that he was utterly disgusted by the revelations and that “we need to collectively stand up and support victims of abuse such as the brave and inspiring women who have spoken out against him and say we hear you and believe you.”

Barack Obama released a statement which said, “Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status.”

Many people came out against the revelations of Weinstein. Many were not surprised and some who were disgusted by the acts had a past of their own.

Ben Affleck released a statement via Twitter which said he was saddened and angry that Weinstein used his power to “intimidate, sexually harass, and manipulate many women over decades.” He also said that he was asking himself what he could do to make sure this would not happen to others and how to do a better job protecting “sisters, friends, co-workers and daughters.”

According to Vox, Affleck faced immediate backlash as women came out saying he had sexually harassed them on and off camera.

In a segment for MTV TRL, he wrapped his arm around One Tree Hill actress Hilarie Burton and grabbed her breast. He told the camera it was “a move” while Burton laughed uncomfortably.

He was 31 at the time.

Affleck spent much of last year campaigning to help his brother, Casey Affleck, win an Oscar after a story came out that said Casey Affleck faced two sexual harassment lawsuits.

According to a tweet from Rose McGowan, Affleck knew exactly what Weinstein was doing and even told McGowan, “Goddamit I told him to stop doing that!” before the press conference she had to attend.

Bill Cosby had over a dozen women accuse him of sexual assault. The accusations went as far back as 1965.

Kesha was not allowed to break her contract with Sony after she accused her producer, Dr. Luke, of being physically, emotionally and sexually abusive toward her. The New York Supreme Court ruled that she had to remain under contract but did not have to work with Dr. Luke.

In a speech to ELLE’s Women in Hollywood event, Jennifer Lawrence told of an experience where a female film producer asked her to lose weight. She said that a female producer made her and five other women who were “much, much thinner than [her]” line up nude with “paste-ons covering [their] privates.”

“After that degrading and humiliating lineup, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet,” Lawrence said.

She asked to speak to a producer about the unrealistic diet that she was to go on and he said “he didn’t know why everyone thought I was so fat, he thought I was perfectly ‘f—-able.’”

Lawrence said that she felt trapped and that she had to let the demeaning treatment occur in order for her career to survive.

Weinstein is not the only Hollywood director to be accused of seual assault or harassment.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 38 women have come forward to claim that Director James Toback sexually harassed or assaulted them.

Toback denied the claims and said he never met any of the women who accused him or if he did he only was with them for five minutes and he had no recollection.

Toback is another case of men abusing their power sexually assault or harass women.

Matt Damon in a interview with deadline.com said, “I think a lot of actors have come out and said everybody’s saying we all knew. That’s not true. This type of predation happens behind closed doors, and out of public view.”

That statement from Damon is not true as he told Good Morning America on Monday that he and Affleck knew of the harassment of Paltrow. Damon, like others, knew but did not do anything about it. 

In an article by The New York Times, Quentin Tarantino admitted that he had known about Weinstein’s behavior for decades.

“There was more to it than just the normal rumors, the normal gossip. It wasn’t secondhand. I knew he did a couple of these things,” Tarantino told The Times.

Tarantino’s former girlfriend, Mira Sorvino, told him of Weinstein’s behavior. In The Times story, Tarantino said the stories told in the articles were familiar to him.

“Everyone who was close to Harvey had heard of at least one of those incidents. It was impossible they didn’t,” Tarantino said.

He acknowledged the almost father-son type relationship Weinstein and he had after working together for many years. Tarantino condemned Weinstein and said he was sorry that he marginalized the women who told him of Weinstein’s behavior.

How widespread Weinstein and the allegations against him are was proven even more by a joke made by Seth MacFarlane during the 2013 Academy Awards.

He was announcing the awards for best supporting actress when he joked, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

The joke has darker implications with the allegations against Weinstein that have come to light. In an interview MacFarlane said that the joke was prompted by a friend telling him of an encounter she had with Weinstein.

“It was with this account in mind that, when I hosted the Oscars in 2013, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a hard swing in his direction,” he tweeted. “Make no mistake, this came from a place of loathing and anger. There is nothing more abhorrent and indefensible than abuse of power such as this.”

To say that it happens behind closed doors and that it is not known about is simply not true. If anything, actresses get blackballed and threatened in the industry if they speak out against assault or harassment.

According to Business Insider’s article naming all of Weinstein’s accusers to date, the accusations against Weinstein go back as far as the 1980s.

Weinstein’s early victims were too afraid to call him out because he was so powerful and they didn’t want to lose their jobs.

Men have to do better. Not just men in Hollywood. Not just famous men. Men everywhere need to do better. I have to do better.

When women are too afraid to speak out about sexual harassment or sexual assault, what does that say about society?

When a woman is too afraid to lose their job by saying someone sexually assaulted or harassed her it shows that we as a society are failing.

We have a sitting president who was elected after outright admitting to sexual assault and said, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

College athletes get less than a year in prison after being caught raping women with people like Brock Turner’s father saying that his son’s life had been ruined by “20 minutes of action.” 

Society is perpetuating a system where men can get away with sexual assault and women can not come forward without fear of losing credibility. 

A campaign of #MeToo began to trend on twitter, and after only 24 hours it had been tweeted nearly half a million times.

The movement started when actress Alyssa Milano used her twitter account to encourage women to tweet the words #MeToo if they had been sexually harassed, according to The Atlantic.

According to CBS News, there were 12 million posts, comments and reactions in less than 24 hours.

The #MeToo campaign started in 2007 when Tarana Burke, a youth activist, created it to let other sexual abuse survivors know that they were not alone.

We as men need to do better in helping create a society where women do not have to fear being sexually assaulted and, if they are, they do not have to fear speaking out.

Until we reach that point, men have to step up. Men have to stop being blind to the assault that goes on in Hollywood and nationally.

When it does happen, men need to speak up. No more being complicit in the patriarchal system of our society that keeps women down.

No more turning a blind eye.

Moss Brennan is a freshman journalism major from Durham, North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter at @mosbren