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Sexual assault demands real consequences: Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual harassment once again

~The Voice, Editor-in-Chief

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     Hollywood is no stranger to scandals. From Alfred Hitchcock’s flushing toilet in Psycho to Kimye breaking the internet, it seems like being scandalous is the best way to gain a little bit of fame in America. All too often, however, that scandal leaves deep scars in people’s lives and perpetuates one of the longest-running issues of humanity: rape culture.

     One of these scandals has reached a level of public notice that has led to deep divides within and outside Hollywood. Prominent film producer Harvey Weinstein, whose company, Miramax, has lent critical acclaim to films such as Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, and Shakespeare in Love, has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and sexual assault, the incidents having occurred over the span of Weinstein’s career in Hollywood.

     Weinstein faces allegations from some huge names in Hollywood, including Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevingne, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few of the more than two dozen women bringing various accusations against the producer. We at The Voice find the long list of potential victims to be both sad and an example of a much larger issue at work in the world of entertainment in America.

     For the past few years, the entertainment industry in America has been rocked by several prominent sexual harassment scandals in addition to the Weinstein case. FOX News has been the most notable for the number of times that the company has had to settle with accusers in order to sweep cases under the rug. Although reports vary, it is believed that the company has spent, in the last roughly two years, more than $50 million in settlements on pending litigations resulting from sexual harassment charges.

     Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly have faced multiple sexual misconduct accusations, and while Ailes has left his company, O’Reilly merely settled with his accusers and continues making the big bucks with not so much as a hiccup in his career. While Weinstein has already faced some serious consequences–his wife left him and he was dropped from his company–he will likely see the same jailless fate as his colleagues at FOX, despite the fact that multiple women have spoken out against him and even accused him of rape.

     We at The Voice wonder why this is. It is because of the power dynamic involved in the assault itself and the setting in which is occurs. Those who are victims of sexual assault are typically assaulted by someone who they knew personally, and while harassment occurs regularly between strangers, it is far more likely to be severe or to escalate in a setting where the victim is familiar with their harasser.

     Perpetrators of sexual crimes take advantage of some perceived or real power that they have over their victim in order to achieve their assault. This can be a physical advantage or it can be the advantage of power that society has created.

     But what if the victim and perpetrator are in the same career fields, or in roughly the same income brackets? That’s where the idea of rape culture comes in, and while some out there would roll their eyes at that phrase, it is worth talking about because it is real and is a major issue in cases such as this one.

     Rape culture is the normalization of sexual crimes, usually achieved by blaming the victim for the crime that they faced. In situations like Weinstein’s, for example, many people have already come out to ask what the victims had done in order to be assaulted/harassed. Their appearance, intentions, personal life and career aspirations have all been called into question, as if by them wearing a certain color lipstick, smiling a little too long or asking for a meeting with their boss somehow faulted them entirely for what happened.

     Rape culture is a social thought that demeans men and women alike. The assumption that women exist as sexual objects who tempt men by merely living and that they could somehow avoid assault or harassment by following a list of unspoken rules degrades women to the status of object. At the same time, men are assumed to be two things: 1) incapable of acting rationally around women unless they are related to them and keeping control of themselves; and 2) always attackers and never victims. This narrative must be changed, and in the wake of this scandal, it is at least being challenged.

      People who have experienced assault or harassment have come forward with hashtags on social media like #MeToo, expressing solidarity with fellow survivors of assault. They’re drawing attention to how widespread the issue is and how many lives have been affected by things like sexual assault. Women have been sharing stories of harassment and assault on social media in order to raise awareness about what this looks like.

     While some people have made a joke about it, a fair number of men have come forward to discuss the issue. Actors like Mark Ruffalo and Seth Rogen have spoken out against the assaults and actor Terry Crews shared his own account of being sexually assaulted by a prominent figure in Hollywood to call attention to the fact that this is a rampant, far-reaching issue.

     This case is only one of many that highlight the glaring issues of workplace harassment and the unfairness of the handling of crimes like these in Hollywood and throughout America. It is no surprise that when the president of the United States also has many similar charges against him, including from former teen beauty pageant contestants, such issues might find themselves simply shrugged off. Money can buy many things, but innocence for the guilty and silence from the victims should not be among those things, and we at The Voice hope that this case will be one of the last where victims will have to nod and quietly say, “Me too.”

~The Voice

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Sexual assault demands real consequences: Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual harassment once again