Warning: This post deals with themes of sexual abuse. If you feel distressed, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
In the past week we've watched as one of Hollywood's most powerful producers, Harvey Weinstein, has fallen from grace. On October 5, The New York Times published an explosive investigative piece detailing a number of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, as well as details of large payoffs to young actresses who were subjected to this harassment and abuse.
Since then high profile actors such Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne have revealed Weinstein sexually harassed them, and The New Yorker has published allegations from three other separate women, all actresses or aspiring actresses, that Weinstein had raped them.
I was violently raped, by a man I knew and thought of as a friend. After the police and his employer failed to do anything about what happened to me, I went public.
As a survivor of rape, and one who reported the crime but had authorities and political parties ignore what happened to me, the stories emerging have a sinister feeling of familiarity.
I was violently raped, by a man I knew and thought of as a friend, in April 2015. Friends took me to the hospital after the attack, and a couple of weeks later I reported the crime to the police. In February this year I also reported what had happened to my rapist's employer.
After the police and his employer failed to do anything about what had happened to me, I went public about my rape and named the man who assaulted me. It went viral, and media outlets soon picked up the story, my name becoming synonymous with "rape victim."
What happened in the following days was similar to the Weinstein case: other women came forward saying they had also being sexual harassed or sexually assaulted by the same man that raped me. Some made their declarations publicly; others came to me privately to detail what he had done to them.
Some of these women also made reports to my rapist's employer and had nothing happen. At least two had made reports to the police as well. Those who didn't make formal reports told stories of feeling pressured to not say anything, since the man worked for and had connections to powerful figures in their industry. The majority of victims were members of the same organisation as him. To come out publicly with accusations of assault and harassment was to ostracise themselves within their own community — especially when others who had made complaints were ignored.
To come out publicly was to ostracise themselves within their own community — especially when complaints were ignored.
This is the same power dynamic that the victims of Weinstein felt. In many cases he allegedly overtly threatened young actresses that he could make or break their careers. Even without an overt threat, Weinstein's company Miramax is very powerful in the industry, and someone at the start of their career couldn't risk getting on his bad side. Weinstein was well aware of this, and used this power to not only allegedly harass and abuse women, but to ensure they stayed silent afterwards.
As a survivor of sexual assault, seeing the Weinstein story play out, hearing the brave women who were harassed and raped by the producer, and seeing the silence from many in Hollywood, is traumatic and depressing. The same tactics are being used from LA to Sydney to silence women.
Last week actor Terry Crews, most well known for his role in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, also came out publicly in response to the Weinstein allegations, detailing how a Hollywood executive (not Weinstein) groped him at an event. In a series of tweets, he summed up why victims so often don't come forward about what happened to them.
"Who's going 2 believe you? (few) What r the repercussions?(many) Do u want 2 work again? (Yes) R you prepared 2b ostracized?(No) [sic]" Crew tweeted.
In speaking out, victims are risking everything. When I went public about being raped, I had messages from strangers telling me I was a liar, that I was making it up, ruining a man's name. I have been trolled for four months by an anonymous person, who has sent me pictures of my rapist, tried to discredit me, and sent horrific abusive messages. Victims have nothing to gain by going public with what happened, and everything to lose. I did it because I couldn't bear another woman being raped by the same man while I stood silent. But it cost me.
In speaking out, victims are risking everything . . . I did it because I couldn't bear another woman being raped by the same man. But it cost me.
Last Tuesday the Weinstein Company board fired Harvey Weinstein over the allegations. But as many victims have attested, he didn't act alone. Assistants and other members of the company reportedly helped lure actresses to Weinstein's hotel room, and then covered up the harassment and abuse afterwards. The company didn't fire Weinstein because they suddenly found out he was an abuser (it was an open secret in Hollywood for years), but because the broader public found out and was outraged.
That, perhaps, is a step forward. Maybe now the power will shift, all so slightly, in favour of victims of sexual assault. But given my experience in coming forward, I can't hold out hope.