ON Oct. 5, the New York Times published a story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd were among the women who first came forward—and set off a deluge of similar accounts of sexual misconduct and even rape, not only by Weinstein, but by other powerful celebrities.
Since the original accusations were published, other women in the industry, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, came forward with their own accounts of sexual harassment at Weinstein’s hands.
American actress Rose McGowan publicly accused Weinstein of raping her, as did British actress Lysette Anthony. Other victims eventually came forward, including Lupita Nyong’o, Lena Headey, Daryl Hannah, Anabella Sciorra, Dominique Huett and Natassia Malthe.
A group of Weinstein Company employees wrote an open letter asking that they be released from the non-disclosure agreements that stopped them from speaking publicly about what they experienced and witnessed.
Albeit belatedly, Weinstein has begun to pay for his sins.
The company that bears his name fired him, his wife left him, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to expel him, and the Producers Guild of American banned him for life. The UK police are also investigating a number of sexual assault allegations involving Weinstein.
The Weinstein revelations, meanwhile, have created a domino effect, and given both men and women the courage to speak out over how they were victimized, not only in the entertainment world, but in politics and the media as well.
In the month since the Weinstein scandal rocked Hollywood, allegations of sexual impropriety have been raised against actor Kevin Spacey, British Defense Minister Michael Fallon, US and UK lawmakers, National Public Radio chief Michael Oreskes, Oscar winning actor Dustin Hoffman, director Brett Ratner, country music publicist Kirt Webster, comedian Andy Dick and actor Jeremy Piven.
Some have since apologized, some have resigned while others lost lucrative deals as part of the sexual harassment fallout.
Here at home, revelations of sexual harassment are far and few between and the evil that men do generally goes unpunished. Perhaps because the complainants are poor, some of these are settled quietly, before they can come to the public’s attention. Given the culture of machismo, too, complaints that manage to make it to the news are quickly hushed up. Nothing, for example, happened to a mayor who was accused on live TV in 2003 of giving his live-in partner, a daughter of a former president, a sexually transmitted disease and threatening her with a gun. Nor did anything come of accusations of rape from a 14-year-old starlet in 1982 against three popular television hosts, after one of them “talked” her into signing an affidavit of desistance in exchange for them issuing a public apology—which they did. The starlet was found dead in her house three years later, hanging inside a closet from a three-inch thick and 36-inch long cotton sash. Although the police ruled it a suicide, talk that she was killed to silence her has persisted. Today, two of the comedians are still in show business, while the third has become a senator.
Not exactly the kind of outcome that would encourage other victims of sexual harassment or assault to speak up against the powerful men who victimized them.