Thursday 12 October 2017

How many women have to speak before one is believed ?

The news that women in Hollywood are coming forward to disclose sexual abuse has uncovered a surprising variety of unreconstructed and frankly misogynistic attitudes. I've seen tweets attacking male film stars for not doing anything. Online comments directed at the wife and the women involved suggesting they knew what they were doing and were complicit. Heard interviews with 'insiders' who claim he was a bully, but they never saw anything like the alleged abuse. It's baffling how much talk there has been and now he's been fired from his own company, his wife is leaving him and he's apparently going into therapy.

There is so much to unpick here, but let me begin with the much discussed issue of who is to blame for this.

No, it is not he fault of all those 'insiders' who hid the truth

No, it isn't the fault of the actresses who didn't warn other women about him

No, it's not the fault of the studio executives who allegedly knew

No, it's not the fault of the actors who allowed it go on and helped cover it up

It is entirely the fault of the man who committed the acts. It is his blame alone. He did these things to women knowing he was able to get away with it. He chose to use and abuse women and to punish them if they tried to speak out against him. He knew what he was doing was abusing his position of power. That is why he targeted young women who were in a vulnerable situation knowing he could take away their careers.

You see when a man is a sexual predator he doesn't believe that he will get found out. It is unrelenting arrogance that a man who would do this then ensure that the woman knows she will not be believed. Not many men have the capacity to have an entire industry turn a blind eye, but remember that in this industry secrets are kept like in no other. Rock Hudson was only publically outed as gay when he died - everyone who worked with him knew, but it was not made public.

To blame everyone around him is to allow these repellant accusations to be dismissed as mere fantasy. I'm choosing my words carefully as he has not been charged with anything. We know by now that just because many women accuse a man of assault doesn't mean that he will face any consequences. The fear of not being believed keeps the cloak of silence firmly in place and even once there are others coming forward it might be years before anyone actually takes action.

Initially he apologised for any pain his actions may have caused - as if he'd merely inconvenienced someone rather than tricked, assaulted and humiliated them. Then he issued a denial, claiming that it was consensual sex and he had not been predatory in his behaviour. Now his wife has left him and he  has taken refuge in therapy where he can appear to be doing something while planning how to mitigate the damage to this career and reputation. Now he has claimed he is seeking help for a sex addiction. What about his addiction to abuse of power ? The deception he has perpetrated - repeatedly - and the humiliation he visited upon the women who have made allegations against him ? How about seeking help with the complete lack of capacity to accept personal responsibility for his own actions ? Making excuses will not change what has happened I find the abuser portraying himself as the victim unplatable at best.

Earlier this year we found out that someone we have known for over a decade was arrested and imprisoned for predatory sexual behaviour. It was such a shock and to be honest I still find it difficult to believe he was able to hide it and get away with it for as long as he did. A mutual friend found out and quite thoughtlessly asked if I genuinely had no idea. Surely I must have known something ? Well you should be proud of me for not punching his lights out, but instead I explained that if I had even an inkling of anything like that I would have done something about it. I am not a bystander. I do not allow wrongdoing past me. I challenge and report what I see and hear. Not everyone does, but I do. Had I any idea he was a sexual predator I would have confronted him and reported him. I did find him odd and often remarked on it, but put it down to my being a bit oversensitive. His partner was lovely so surely I was the one who had it wrong ? I could not have known what he was doing. He hid his actions and got away with them for many years. An abuser will do that.

The news items about this will be hard for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse to hear. I am struggling to keep my composure when I hear about his pathetic attempts to guilt women into having sex with him. Sitting and crying that a woman wouldn't sleep with him because he was fat - maybe it's because a woman has the right to say no. That being powerful and dominant in the industry in which that woman wants to work does not give you the right to take liberties with her. I veer between feeling revulsion and biting anger. The powerful women who have come forward to tell their stories can do so now because they are free of his tyranny. They have made a career and been successful - in some cases because of him - and can speak up. If only they had felt able to do so earlier because they would be believed and respected for speaking out.

Women involved in this are being treated with such shocking disregard and it shames us all. No one should feel they cannot report a sexual assault for fear of being treated with contempt, or threatened or because they will have their character called into question. This is not how we should treat people in a developed society.

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