Over the weekend, the New York Times published an exposé of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which ultimately led to him being fired from The Weinstein Company. The article detailed decades of Weinstein sexually harassing and assaulting young female actresses and employees, often utilizing the same patterns and types of behavior. Mr. Weinstein paid at least eight settlements to women for his sexual harassment and assault, and yet he was not fired from his company until after the New York Times article was released and there was a public uproar over his behavior. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/harvey-weinstein-harassment-allegations.html)
Harvey Weinstein’s abuse of women has long been an open secret in Hollywood. But given his power as the head of a major studio, few were willing to challenge him. As one victim stated, “I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” While the silence of victims’ is understandable given this power imbalance, the failure of fellow power players in Hollywood and beyond to speak out against him is disturbing. Again: his abuse of women was not a secret, and he had paid at least eight settlements to his victims. He traveled in incredibly powerful circles, with politicians, captains of industry and famous actors and actresses. Why are some only speaking out against him now, and why is there still silence from others?
In response to this story, one woman decided to take her anger to Twitter. She shared her own story of workplace sexual harassment and assault, starting her tweet with “When did you meet YOUR Harvey Weinstein?” Thousands of women and men replied with their own stories of workplace sexual harassment and assault, using the hashtag #MyHarveyWeinstein. These stories are a stark reminder of just how prevalent workplace sexual harassment and assault still are in our society.
One of the most important takeaways from this news story is the importance of believing victims. As actress Amber Tamblyn so succinctly put it, women (and all victims of sexual harassment and assault) have nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward with their stories. Yet far too often, they are disbelieved, shamed and subjected to further abuse for telling the truth about what happened to them. The Harvey Weinstein scandal may represent an extreme case given the levels of power, fame and money involved, but it is a situation that happens every day to women in male-dominated industries across the country. Believing victims is critical to empowering them to come forward — and potentially stopping predators like Harvey Weinstein before they spend decades harassing and assaulting women.
At Blackburn Center, we offer help to all victims of violence, including those who have suffered sexual harassment and sexual assault. If you need help, contact our confidential hotline anytime at 1-888-832-2272 or 724-836-1122. To learn more about how you can help to support our mission, click to donate or to volunteer for our organization.