Sexual violence and misconduct is a topic that has dominated the news lately. There has been a flood of sexual assault allegations coming out of the Hollywood entertainment industry. These allegations range from inappropriate behavior, to forced sexual misconduct and rape. Of course, people in prominent positions in society have faced these claims before, but many accusations have opened the floodgates, and sparked international conversations where many political leaders of differing beliefs have begun to ask the questions: Is this turning into an epidemic? What caused these behaviors? What should we do about it?
The story that has been inspiring many others to come out with their stories was that of Harvey Weinstein. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment, assault and rape. His alleged victims were usually those who he knew through work, including actors and production assistants. After women came out about what crimes he had committed, he was fired by the Weinstein Co. and expelled from various professional guilds. Currently under investigation by police departments in New York, London, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, Weinstein denies all allegations of rape; however, he has apologized for causing “a lot of pain” with “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past.”
On the grounds that Harvey Weinstein’s case is being taken seriously and dealt with professionally, many other victims have come out explaining their stories pertaining to harassment by a person in the media. These accusations spread across all forms of media, from entertainment, to sports, to political commentators. Celebrity chef John Besh was accused by 25 women of sexual harassment, forcing him to face charges and step down from the company he founded; comedian Louis C.K. has admitted to sexually assaulting five women, canceling the planned release of his new film. The director and produced Gary Goddard was accused by a man of sexually molesting him when he was 12 years old. The actor Dustin Hoffman was accused and admitted to sexually harassing a woman when she was 17 years old. Showrunner Andrew Kreisberg was accused by 19 women of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. The Pixar and Disney Animation chief John Lasseter has been accused by several women of unwanted touching, leading him to take a break from his position. Even the incredibly famous actor Kevin Spacey has been accused by at least 24 men of sexual misconduct, and as a result has been fired from “House of Cards.” Writer and director James Toback was also accused by hundreds of women of sexual harassment.
Many men in publishing and business have also had claims come out against them; Billboard magazine executive Stephen Blackwell was accused of sexual assault by one women, and consequently has resigned from the magazine. Journalist Mark Halperin was accused of harassing about 12 women while at ABC News; his book contract has been terminated and he has been fired from his job at NBC News. NPR News chief Michael Oreskes was accused of inappropriate behavior by at least four women while at the New York Times; NPR fired him. PBS and CBS host Charlie Rose was accused by several women of unwanted sesubsequently xual advances, groping and grabbing women.
Men involved in politics have been proven guilty as well; Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel was accused of sexually inappropriate comments and behavior towards a number of women. United States Representative John Conyers was accused of sexual harassment towards staffers in his office. Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover even stepped down as speaker last month after news surfaced that he had a settled sexual harassment claim from a GOP caucus staffer.
These incoming allegations and proven stories have led many people and political leaders to make claims and accusations of their own about the effect of these stories on the public. Some people are incredibly supportive of victims coming forward and sharing their stories, and they see it as another step in the right direction in terms of ensuring victims rights and advocacy. “Awareness about the widespread occurrence of sexual assault can only be a positive move forward to eliminating the rape culture that plagues society,” said Janine Phillips, the outreach and communications specialist for the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley. “Rape and sexual assault have been almost accepted or excused actions for as long as mankind has been recording history,” explains Phillips.
Given the national reach and popularity of this subject, this has put new pressures on political leaders to respond. President Donald Trump has condemned some of the accused, been more muted about others, and found himself again being asked about sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against him.
Despite the cause for these problems, most Americans can agree that this growing issue in media must be examined and addressed in order to provide recovery and healing for the victims, as well as fitting legal prosecution for perpetrators found guilty of these crimes.
– Maggie Di Sanza