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Stop Calling Sexual Assault Accusations Witch Hunts

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Most of us remember our high school English class when we all inevitably were handed a copy of The Crucible and endured the lessons on the Salem Witch Trials. You probably even laughed at how ridiculous the Puritans were to accuse young girls of performing dark magic. But we chuckled because these accusations were false and when we took it seriously, we noticed the injustice against these young girls. But here we are in 2018, and Woody Allen has smacked the term “witch hunt” on the recent exposure of sexual assault in Hollywood.        

It’s time we shut this idea down.           

The women here aren’t the predators. They are the prey, and we need to focus on the real hunt. This isn’t the Puritan era; this is a new hunting ground, and the consequences of this rhetoric are real.  

In a BBC interview, Woody Allen stated that it’s become “a witch hunt atmosphere” and “every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.”             

But the worst part is that Allen isn’t alone in using this rhetoric. The following suit were comments made by Catherine Deneuve and more notably Liam Neeson. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Neeson provided the same explanation as Allen, claiming: “There are some people, famous people, being suddenly accused of touching some girl’s knee … and suddenly they’re being dropped.”

Can we blame these men for being so out of touch with what’s happening? The answer is yes. As much as we hate our beloved celebrities falling from grace – such as Aziz Ansari and Ed Westwick – we can’t assume these accusations are false because we didn’t see them coming. There’s no excuse for siding with the abusers because you feel bad they’re careers are over – they are predators and, even with celebrity status, deserve to be treated as such.  

The term “witch hunt” in itself implies the mass accusation and hysteria of accusing a group of wrongdoings they didn’t commit. The entire premise of the witch hunt rhetoric is that a frenzy is occurring and people are blindly hunted because of it. I hate to break it to you, Woody Allen and Liam Neeson, but these accusations aren’t false or intended to harm. They are brought to light to bring justice. Just take a single look at the #MeToo hashtag circulating Twitter. Thousands of women have had an experience with sexual assault.           

Do you think all of them are lying, Liam? Was Larry Nassar a victim of the hunt, Woody? These accusations are not unwarranted, and if this term “witch hunt” keeps circulating, it invalidates the many brave women stepping forward. It puts the focus on the number of claims being made rather than the fact that it’s a problem that many men are assaulting women and have gotten away with it until now. 

Men in Hollywood, or in any significant business, are ultimately protected in most cases. This is why this current cultural phenomenon of breaking the silence and knocking down the walls feels like a shockwave. It doesn’t feel great to accept it. But if women don’t step forward with their allegations, you create an atmosphere where a man like Larry Nassar thrives. He sexually abused more than 150 women in the timespan of two decades of silence. When Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said, “I’ve just signed your death warrant” after sentencing Nassar to 175 years in prison, the last thought that should be crossing anyone’s mind is that Nassar is a victim of the hunt. The gymnasts who testified are brave, strong, recovering women; they are not witches performing dark magic to unhinge male dominance.  

This isn’t to say firmly that every woman is telling the truth, because surely there are women out there who have falsely accused a man of sexual assault, which is also appalling. From a moral standpoint, I choose to side with the women strong enough to admit they’ve been abused.

These aren’t your average men. These are extremely powerful and highly revered moguls. As an actress trying to make it in Hollywood, it sounds easier to shut your mouth when Harvey Weinstein abuses you. Being blacklisted forever seems a lot worse than having no one even believe your accusation in the first place. Celebrities have become modern-day Greek Gods, and we need to realize that women struggle in taking down these giants. No amount of time can erase assault. Whether a woman takes a week or years to speak about it, all claims are still valid.

So how do we help these women survive when people are crying “witch hunt?” We need to shut down the rhetoric. We need to show our support for these women. We need to say, “I believe you.” Liam Neeson and Woody Allen, I need you to worry more about a woman who’s been abused than a celebrity losing his next big acting gig. The good news is that the floodgates have been thrust open and the opportunities for women to tell their stories are at an optimal high. This is not a ‘witch hunt.’ This is progress, this is our new culture, this is going against the grain – and this is what it is to be brave against the people who try to silence you.

To all the women who have come forward, I am with you. To all the people reading this, know that we can all shed light on the dark, and create a brighter future together where the stigma around sexual assault is no more.


Allie Maniglia served as the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Penn State from 2017-2018. She majored in public relations with minors in international studies and communication arts and sciences. If she's not busy writing away, you can find her planning her next adventure (probably back to the U.K.), feeding an unhealthy addiction to HGTV or watching dog videos on YouTube.