I feel the need to commemorate this day as the one that broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault and sexual harassment news wide open. After this New York Times expose on Weinstein’s predatory behavior, today’s New Yorker piece added yet another layer including an audio file of Harvey trying to threaten and persuade a woman he groped to join him alone in his hotel room.
I find the audio fascinating, actually, because it sounds so familiar in the way the predator works hard to make his victim feel as if she is doing something bad TO HIM. Repeatedly, Weinstein is heard telling the woman not to ‘get him in trouble’ at the hotel that he frequents. He does this while ignoring her repeated and emphatic refusal to enter his hotel room alone with him. His needs supersede hers at all turns in the recording. That’s how this stuff works. And now, there is audio to demonstrate it. And that is a good thing, even though it is so deplorable.
Furthermore, the multiple reports of his abuses show us something else we know about predators: They employ a method that brings about desired, consistent results. For Harvey, nary a hotel robe was safe from his naked machinations. And if hotel walls could speak, they’d ask him to checkout and never ever return.
Right on cue, the masses of people asking “Why didn’t she come forward sooner??” have started weighing in. The subtext there is “I don’t believe her” from anyone who asks that. Also, it’s people waving a flag that screams “I am ignorant! But I don’t know that I’m ignorant! I think that I’m being clever and measured asking this super tough question!”
Friends, this is not difficult to grasp: In order to punish the person who harmed them, victims would have to harm themselves the most of all; that is perverted and unjust. For many, it is not even an option.
Is it not completely reasonable to understand what one of his victims faced: A team of lawyers ready to sue for defamation or slander, a bevy of publicists with Page Six on speed dial to spread vicious lies, and the threat that if one is not financially ruined, she most certainly will never be able to continue with her chosen career. Show me the man or woman who would take that on. Show me the person living paycheck to paycheck or very near it, who would take that on and expect a favorable outcome. You can’t.
When I decided to press charges against Marco just hours after he assaulted me, I didn’t realize right away that it could ruin me financially, cost me my house, my retirement and my employment. The stress of that reality setting in, was crushing, and the fear had me sleepless and prone to awful nightmares. I almost quit on my case, twice. And I was only up against a feckless loser, not a millionaire Hollywood mogul.
Anyone asking or ridiculing victims about not coming forward or suggesting they are lying, is really the kind of person predators need in order to thrive. They participate in and perpetuate the cycle of sexual violence. So, let the question be posed to them instead: “What are you doing to help victims come forward?” If the answer is “Nothing.” Then the only silence I would advocate for in all of this, is theirs.