After claims about Hollywood producer and executive Harvey Weinstein came pouring out into the public, many claims about other famous men and sexual harassment flooded the media. Included amongst these men were some of America’s beloved stars such as Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, Ed Westwick, Louis C.K., and most recently, Sylvester Stallone.
My immediate reaction to hearing about these claims was disgust. Disgust against the men who could commit such a crime. Disgust against men who could not only commit such a crime, but get away with it, act like nothing had happened, and continue to benefit from their powerful position in the spotlight. How horrible for these women who had been assaulted. How horrible that they have to see the face of the person that assaulted them so frequently in the media. But then I felt another emotion that I was surprised by. I couldn’t quite name it, and I wanted to wish the feeling away. But I didn’t. I embraced it and tried to analyze why I felt the way I did.
At first, I was sad for the amazing works of art that would be forever tainted by these events. I felt bad for enjoying the work of Woody Allen, for still believing that Chuck Bass is my dream guy, that House of Cards is one of the best political modern television shows. I felt guilty for thinking these things. But why? Why should my enjoyment of fictional stories be ruined just because some of the people involved committed crimes?
And then the devil’s advocate part of me took over. Some of these stars are denying these claims. I know that’s easy to do. And not fair to the victims to believe the assaulters. But what if they are in fact telling the truth? I want to believe and trust in our justice system and our country places emphasis on “innocent until proven guilty.” So why is that lost in a situation like this? While it may be difficult for many victim’s to come forward with their stories of sexual assault, how do we make them feel comfortable to do so while still keeping our rights of innocent until proven guilty? Although it may be uncommon, it does in fact happen that people make up and lie about sexual assault claims. So how do we believe the victim and still make sure to do thorough research into whether or not the claims are true? Who do I believe?
I’m so torn between wanting to get rid of this culture of victim blaming and also wanting to keep people innocent until proven guilty. And I’m unsure of how to do both. I’m unsure of how as a society, we accomplish doing what feels so impossible.