The wake of destruction left in the path of Hollywood’s “open secret” golden goose producer trails back nearly three decades. Throughout that time, any opposition was met with blacklisting, lawyers and non-disclosure agreements.
His victims include Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan and more than 40 others. Harvey Weinstein’s horrifying exploits would have broken years ago if not for editors at the New York Times burying a 2004 investigative piece revealing his crimes.
Why was Weinstein able to abuse as many people as he did? Power. According to Jessi Hitchens, director of UNO’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, sexual assault and harassment are gendered crimes focused on power and control.
“Sexual assault and domestic violence are gendered problems, but it is based on power and control.” Hitchens said. “People in positions of power enjoy that, and they want to revel in it. This is a way they get to do that, and it is not checked.”
Sexual abuse in Hollywood is not a new problem. Teen idol of the 1980s Corey Feldman has detailed publicly the abuse he and friend Corey Haim suffered, which is believed to have caused Haim’s drug addiction and overdose related death at the age of 38. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Feldman spoke out about the sexually abusive circles in Hollywood.
Walters interrupted him, saying, “You’re damaging an entire industry!” But now the floodgates have been opened. Dozens upon dozens of victims of Weinstein and other Hollywood bigwigs have begun to share their stories with a simple social media post, #MeToo.
Some people who post elaborate. Some do not. All share a common circumstance of having experienced sexual harassment and/or assault. For some, it can be a release of emotions broiling beneath the surface. For others, it can be a painful and regressive reminder of trauma. To use social media to unite against abuse and its perpetrators has begun to tear down the shameful stigma that surrounds being a victim.
Just as important as helping the victims is recognizing the root of the problem: some humans enjoy exerting power and control over others and choose to do so by sexually abusing those with so much more to lose and so much more opportunity to lose it all.
Studies have shown that the reaction of the first person a victim tells about their assault dictates that victim’s decisions from them regarding the matter. “Their reaction dictates how a person will disclose afterward,” Hitchens said. Weinstein is not a disease. Weinstein is a system of symptoms in the diseased organism that is the Hollywood Celebrity Machine.
Weinstein is not a monster. He is a man who made choices. He is a despicable, predatory, vile human being who made choices that will affect his victims for the rest of their lives. When events like this occur and crimes like this are committed, ignored and hidden, people try to categorize the perpetrators as “monsters” and “other.”
But he is not a monster, and he is not other. He is a human just like the rest of us, and he is an important reminder that humans can be awful to each other. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can find help at the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center in the Milo Bail Student Center. “You will be believed here,” Hitchens said.