Over the past few weeks, women in Hollywood have come forward disclosing their sexual assault encounters with movie and television producer, Harvey Weinstein. The allegations came in waves, each day they trickled in and with them came backlash. There were instances of victim blaming, social media protests, and of course, questions of the allegations truthfulness.
Whenever such allegations come out and women come forward, there’s often the questions of, “Why now?” or “Why didn’t they say something earlier?” Sometimes, it takes just one woman, one voice for others to have the courage to share their experiences too. These women aren’t trying to get back into the spotlight, but rather they are empowered by other victims and find strength and safety in numbers.
Society is quick to judge and victims face intimidation and the unlikelihood of justice. The result is that many survivors would rather keep silent. There’s vulnerability when all of that private shame is put on a silver platter for the world to see. It takes incredible strength to overcome that fear.
Believing women is a simple idea, believing all victims regardless of their gender identity is a simple idea. If we lived in a world where women were comfortable coming out about their experiences then maybe more women would feel safe. Men, often immediately receive support. They’re labeled brave and defying the status quo, but women are faced with questions with the need to provide intimate details just be trusted.
If Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie would have come out about their experiences years ago, would they have been as successful in their careers as they have been? Probably not. They would have been seen as “whiners” unable to navigate the Hollywood industry.
If we believed women, maybe abusers would feel less protected. High profile men in Hollywood have fame and money and that privilege and power often denounces what they are accused of doing. Weinstein isn’t alone. Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes and even the President have been accused of abusing their power and treating women as sexual objects that are to be controlled and abused. And unfortunately, women, especially college women, will have to struggle to be believed.
Victims aren’t terrible witnesses to their own assault. Most remember what happened. They were there. We need to stop asking, “Why didn’t she say anything?” and instead wonder, “Why aren’t we doing more to support survivors?”
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Your choices, whether it is your clothing, your career, or how much you had to drink should not determine if you should be believed.