How did we get so far? How did so many once-beloved stars suddenly, unintentionally unveil themselves as sexual predators? How did it come to the point where more victims are deemed liars than perpetrators deemed monsters? How did we become knee-deep in this swamp of sexual predators monopolizing the entertainment industry, controlling all we see and believe?
Roman Polanski. Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Danny Masterson. Woody Allen. Mark Halperin. Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. James Toback.
These are only few names in a list of both accused and repudiated sexual predators who often abused their power of prestige to manipulate, harass, and assault a multitude of women. The list could extend for miles if more stories were not concealed and victims not drowned out by backlash from coworkers and abusers. With incredible influence and connections, so many perpetrators have escaped justice and continue attacking women as the patriarchy-born systems fail them time and time again.
Like quicksand, numerous famous producers, directors, and actors have grappled over the face of Hollywood and drawn us into this familiar vortex of corruption and fear. So many women fall victim to the sexual control that their bosses impose over them as they endure constant objectification simply to “survive the industry.” Talents cultivated through years of practice, dedication, and education crumble as manipulative men entrap them into unwilling, abusive situations. If the stigma against female victims speaking the truth did not run so high, more women would come forward and discontinue the cycles of abuse.
Yet, the problem wherein powerful people abuse their domain by taking advantage of women and men has long-existed. Years ago, beloved Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe described lewd filmmakers in her memoir: “Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes — an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.”
No woman, regardless of power and success, is safe from the unchecked, inappropriate behavior of men. Women like Monroe, amongst other actresses and young people, experienced the endless objectification and sexualization by the men who controlled their future.
Even beyond entertainers, people in positions of political power such as Roy Moore and Donald Trump have been accused on multiple occasions of sexual assault and misconduct. Yet, many look past these otherwise-horrific allegations to see a rose-tinted glass vision of politics where you can vote for the person without condoning their misconduct. Under constant suppression, more and more victims lose in a perpetual positive-feedback loop of coming forward: state an allegation, receive backlash, be silenced, face more manipulation from an empowered abuser, endure further trauma, fight back, get ostracized and abused, stay silent…
But why must it be so? Why is it a game of survival and endurance for countless women? Why is silence the only legal protection they receive? How did we get so far?
I know how.
Such baseless, powerful abusers did not magically gain authority without apprehension. No, we as a society have enabled them not only through our long-standing silence but our ignorant applause. When we applaud sexual offenders by listening to their music or watching their films we unwittingly perpetuate the power of such individuals. It’s no surprise that victims often feel too terrified to come forward in a world where ignorance comes easier than activism.
Matt Damon made a statement earlier this week in light of all the recent allegations. He claimed that he would continue working with people in Hollywood accused of sexual conduct (based on how ‘bad’ it was) and that society should talk about the “men in Hollywood who aren’t sexual predators.” Though Damon may not be a sexual abuser, he is an enabler. When celebrities like him divert media attention away from real predators to normal situations, they enable the silencing of sexual assault. Taking such a stance sets a precedent for other stars of Hollywood to continue sponsoring known abusers while holding onto the “not all men” notion—thus getting justice nowhere.
It’s time for a systemic change. Hollywood, the U.S. government, and institutions like colleges have silently drowned out sexual assault victims with their applause for entitled abusers. We have come so far that the accusers are attacked more than perpetrators as society becomes increasingly desensitized to the struggles of women. While the curtains are closing and spotlight is fading for many abusers, there are far too many untold stories and un-apprehended criminals floating around us. It’s time to listen to both sides, to support those brave enough to tell the truth in a society so far gone that we’d rather support predators than change our beliefs.