The legacy of sexual assault in Hollywood

The recent allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is, unfortunately, only another in a long list of Hollywood giants to be accused of sexual assault. Throughout recent decades, victims have come forward to accuse powerful individuals of abusing them. The accused include, Woody Allen, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, Lena Dunham and Casey Affleck. Those accused, unlike Harvey Weinstein seem to have suffered no repercussions, and in the case of Casey Affleck- may have indirectly increased his fame.

Harvey Weinstein, unlike the other people I have mentioned, seems to be facing repercussions for his actions. This is very unusual in Hollywood. When Johnny Depp was accused by his ex-wife Amber Heard of abuse, Depp, unlike Weinstein was not removed from any of his advertising campaigns and continues to have a very healthy acting career. Similarly, Woody Allen, the acclaimed film director was accused of sexual assault of young girls, yet his reputation as a celebrated American director has survived these allegations.

Ever since the 1950s Hollywood has been increasingly pressured and difficult to break into, this is being exploited by abusers who know that, like Weinstein, their immense power in the industry will protect them being convicted. In the Harvey Weinstein case we can see that he was being protected for many years, by other people in the industry. It has emerged that journalists have had many leads for stories about Weinstein’s abuse, yet in 2004 Matt Damon (also a very famous and powerful man in Hollywood) worked to stop the publication of a story about Weinstein’s abuse. This suggests that Hollywood is so infiltrated by abusers that, in the case of Harvey Weinstein, other members of Hollywood would rather cover the story up then have it come out.

However, the story of Harvey Weinstein’s abuse differs much from these other abusers, he has been stripped of some of his achievements, unlike Johnny Depp, Casey Affleck or Woody Allen. Corruption in Hollywood seems to be one old tradition they can’t break, with multiple cover ups alluded to in the Weinstein case alone. We know that huge stars like the late Michael Jackson have allegedly used his power as a teenage pop sensation to abuse others, yet he is fondly remembered as an iconic American pop star. Hollywood’s inability to call out these abuses, only creates more of a culture where abuse can happen.

Hollywood has a long history of sexual assault and paedophilia, with rumours of a child paedophilia ring run by the most powerful men in Hollywood. The main trend here is that, those actors and other members of Hollywood who knew of these assaults, don’t seem to be willing to speak up. This allows the abusers more power as this culture of silence and shame only protects them. The Harvey Weinstein accusations are so important to unravelling a long story of abuse in Hollywood, because this seems to be the first time in recent years where some justice is being done. Harvey Weinstein has been removed from his position at Miramax and was stripped of his membership to the Oscars organisation. These steps towards publicly shaming Weinstein is very significant, because none of the aforementioned abusers have been treated in a similar way. After Chris Brown attacked Rhianna in 2009 he received a sentence of five years’ probation and no jail time. This inability to give Chris Brown a severe sentence led to him being welcomed back into celebrity society, and going on to have an increasingly successful music career.

Most of the abusers in Hollywood have received very light sentences, or no repercussions at all, which is largely due to the fear they invoke in others about speaking out, because of their gross power in the industry. It seems that this use of shame and silence to protect abusers may be lessening slightly, after Harvey Weinstein is finally being made an example of.