Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault scandals shed light on culture of silence in Hollywood

By Samantha Milowitz || Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy of www.nydailynews.com

Sexual harassment has always been a prevalent issue; every day, new people are victimized and made to feel less than.  So many people fall victim to rape and sexual harassment without us ever knowing because they are afraid to speak up; however, there are times when even if they do, nothing is done or no one believes.  In a place like Hollywood where paparazzi run rampant and star’s private lives are spread out in magazines, one sexual predator was left hidden from the world’s eyes. Although recently reported, Harvey Weinstein has been treating his female workers like property for almost thirty years without any consequences.

For such a recent story, so much has been released over the past couple of weeks, tracing these sexual advances back to 1990.  On October 6th, the New York Times conducted an investigation and since, approximately 30 women have come forward that were sexually abused by Weinstein.  Among them are notable celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie who’s accusations brought the case a lot of attention.  There is evidence, according to the New York Times on October 11th, that many of these women did report Weinstein, but received payouts for their silence on the matter that began in 2015.  While Weinstein’s board denies knowledge of these payouts, according to the New York Times on October 5th, employees were forced to sign a “code of silence” that forbid them from speaking out about anything that could interfere with the reputation of the company.  Over these past weeks, numerous pieces of evidence have been revealed that lead to Weinstein’s guilt including a recording with an italian model, Ambra Battilana, being encouraged by Weinstein to watch him take a shower.  Although Weinstein says that this recording was a “setup,” the stories of women who have come forward, match up with the recording almost exactly; Emily Nestor and Ashley Judd were both invited by Weinstein to his hotel room in the Peninsula hotel where he said he would massage them or they could watch him shower.  Weinstein was able to sway these women against their judgement by promising them fame and fortune in exchange for sex. Since these recent findings, Harvey took a temporary “leave of absence,” which later turned into his ultimate expulsion by the board of the Weinstein Company.  The board released a statement, quoted in the October 6th New York Times article, saying, “As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged.”  Despite being fired from the Weinstein Company, he has not been charged with any crimes.

With the amount of victims and information piling up everyday, one has to ask why this took so long to be revealed to the public.  Although Paltrow and Jolie did not seem to report about their own experiences with Weinstein until the Times’ published their information, many women had come forward with their own allegations long before.  One was a woman named Lauren O’Connor who was an assistant of Weinstein’s that, like the rest, was invited up to his hotel room where she was forced into giving him a massage, naked.  O’Connor reported to the board what happened to her in a detailed memo.  This letter was sent to executives that worked for Weinstein, yet nothing was ever mentioned about it, except for a settlement offer that made O’Connor rescind her letter and offer her “thanks” to Weinstein instead.  The board was covering for Harvey and that they did nothing to prevent any future sexual harrassments.

It seems like this same situation keeps happening: a rich, powerful, male is covered for by those that need him to induce their own careers.  Weinstein, being this successful producer and director, has a lot of people that rely on him for work, which is why they would never give up any information to get him into trouble.  It was not until word finally got out about these sexual allegations that the board was forced to let Weinstein go to save themselves.  Although they had obviously heard of O’Connor’s case as well as probably several other women that attempted to report Weinstein, they released a statement saying, “in light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days…”  None of this information is new, it was simply covered up by people that would rather keep up their business than admit to Weinstein being a sexual predator.  Yes, this new information does point to issues with sexual harassment and rape culture, but it also points to an issue with men feeling that they are so powerful that they have the ability to get away with anything. It calls into question the value of money we have and what some people will do in order to get it.

What fascinated me most of all was a statement from Ms. Bloom who had been advising Weinstein on gender and power throughout the past year.  Why Weinstein having an advisor on gender and power would not lead anyone to suspicion is concerning, but her description of Weinstein being,“an old dinosaur learning new ways,” in the October 5th New York Times article, is an even more concerning one.  There should be no excuses for this; it does not matter that Weinstein is older or that he is famous. Weinstein’s popularity does not excuse him from what he has done to these women.   These stories happen way too much and they are often uncovered way too late; it is important for women to have reliable people to go to, to report being raped or sexually harassed. After the NYPD got Ambra Battilana to record her and Weinstein’s interaction, nothing was done about the situation.  Had there been other actions taken, numerous women could have been prevented from falling victim to Weinstein’s sexual harassment.  The goal should be to protect the victim, not the predator.  I hope that Weinstein will no longer be known for his accomplishments in the film industry, but for how he has treated these women and the entitlement he felt that enabled him to do it.

First-Year Samatha Milowitz is a contributing writer. Her email is smilowit@fandm.edu.

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