OPINION: Two out of three sexual assaults are unreported, so why should celebrities break the stats?

By on October 17, 2017

Earlier this week, Hollywood was ravaged by the news that producer Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own company due to overwhelming allegations of sexual assault.

Celebrities who have previously worked with the movie mogul have been stepping forward in a solemn unity against Weinstein’s actions in light of the crisis. However, Weinstein’s actions were discussed previously in his career without a need for punishment. This devastating action of letting Weinstein “off the hook” led to many other young actresses being groped or even raped by the producer. Imagine if an actor like Leonardo Dicaprio or Brad Pitt had actually done something concrete to prevent more of these assaults. Think of how many women they could have helped.

Actress Rose McGowan is making waves among those persistent with the case, becoming the voice for those who were victimized by Weinstein. She originally made claims that Weinstein violated her in the late 1990’s and filed a settlement for $100,000 in 1997 as a result, according to the New York Times. Because of her settlement, she was not able to fully disclose her trauma, but her allusions to Weinstein in past interviews had her labeled as crazy or misunderstood.

Hearing this label used to justify my own actions in real life, the disappointment I feel hearing it come from people with a social following is astounding because of just how false this conception is.

Recently, American fashion designer Donna Karan stated in an interview with the Daily Mail that McGowan, among other victims, may have been “asking for it.”

“You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do.” Karan said.

Karan’s words perpetuate the age-old excuse that thousands of sexual assault victims have to hear over and over, that their own presentations equated to consent.

Two out of three sexual crimes go unreported by the victims, and perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Of course I would like to see every sexual offender behind bars, but I completely understand why victims choose to stay silent- the consequences of speaking out seem to outweigh the benefits of reporting, if anyone even validates the victim’s claims. The countless stories of women and men reporting their experiences to higher authorities to have their case put on a shelf or not even considered is heartbreaking. Many victims of sexual crimes are reluctant to report due to fallacies similar to the argument of Karan.

McGowan fell into this ploy as people used her wardrobe choices to pin the crime on her, most famously her sheer dress that she wore to the 1998 Video Music Award’s. Women today who have been sexually assaulted and even young girls in schools who are restricted from showing sexualized parts of the body, are helpless to the systematic type of reasoning that exonerates many perpetrators and even at one point exonerated Weinstein. Nevertheless, one’s clothing is no indicator of determining their sexual consent. The only true indicator of consent are the words “yes” or “no,” and the fact that there is still question about whether other factors determine consent saddens me.

But now, the most collective group of celebrities to speak out about sexual harassment and assault ever took over the media with comments of disgust and sadness for the incidents that Weinstein caused. Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have revealed that they have had their own negative encounters with the producer where they stated that they had also been sexually harassed. Having the bravery to be this forthcoming about a horrible experience to a global audience has made an impact but these things shouldn’t be confessed in order to appease the masses.

“I was a kid,” Paltrow said in an interview with The New York Times.“I was signed up. I was petrified. I was expected to keep it a secret.”

Paltrow was working on the film “Emma” in 1996 when she was first introduced to Weinstein who later touched her inappropriately while they were having a meeting in a hotel.

Paltrow remained silent for the first few days after word broke that Weinstein was fired, which somehow caused a major uproar from people on social media. The actress was receiving demands to speak up about the producer simply because she had worked with him previously, with no known confirmation that she had ever been harassed. In the end, Paltrow was the one to release her comments, but the damage was already done. The hoards of social justice advocaters had ravaged the misconstrued lack of action on Paltrow’s behalf.

Stars like Lindsay Lohan stated that they have never seen that kind of behavior from Weinstein. So how could people have known that Paltrow was another victim? Recently Paltrow spoke out about her intense experience with Weinstein to the New York Times and concluded her account with a statement that women cannot be continued to be treated like this.

A little over a week since the scandal, social media users were pushing Paltrow to comment and taking her silence as some sort of condolence for Weinstein. They assumed that since she did not want to speak out that she either did not care about women’s issues or was choosing Weinstein’s side. These infuriating comments regarding Paltrow’s silence shows a complete lack of respect for sexual harassment victims.

Despite the fact that Paltrow is a celebrity, she was still put in a very uncomfortable situation that has stayed with her for years and could have almost ended her career. It is not her duty to bring back those memories just to appease her followers or rectify a future publicity scandal that paints her as supporting the assault and harassment of women. Being a victim of sexual assault can have tremendous effects on physical and mental health and recurring memories of the incident can be immensely traumatizing for victims. This lack of sympathy for the victims by forcing them to relive these moments almost resembles the behavior used by victim blamers.

No one, no matter their occupation or status, needs to be pressured into revealing that they have been harassed or assaulted just to prove that they are against sexual crimes. That being said, celebrities who were brave enough to come forward are working toward bringing an issue that has been going on since the early 1900’s to an end according to BBC News.

The “casting couch” culture that developed during the Golden Age of cinema was a sleazy way for directors, producers and managers of films to cast young, aspiring actors and actresses to perform in their films. It became a norm for the young actresses to sleep around with top Hollywood influencers in order to gain more success in the film industry.

“The casting couch may seem like a relic of the Golden Age of Hollywood–but women here say sexual harassment is rife and that exploitation is a price you pay for being part of the industry.” BBC News stated in an article.

Luckily, Hollywood has modified how it chooses which actors or actresses participate in films, but there is still a hint of the “casting couch” legacy that exists, remaining unspoken. But, if a victim does not want to speak, that is his or her choice and should not be received as a white flag.

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About Charlotte Gardner

Associate Arts and Life Editor