The allegations that have been made against Ben Affleck, and much more seriously Harvey Weinstein, have led to one troubling question being asked by many; why do these women not walk away and why don’t they speak at the time?
Weinstein, the 65-year-old movie mogul, is facing a number of sexual assault allegations which have emerged over three decades, with actresses Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan among the accusers. Affleck meanwhile, has been forced to apologise for groping actress Hilarie Burton in 2003 less than 24 hours after he claimed he was left ‘saddened’ by Weinstein’s action.
So powerful has Weinstein been throughout his career that it would be difficult to find one actress who has not met with Weinstein – as of 2015 Weinstein was the second most thanked man in Oscar history, just after Steven Spielberg and far ahead of God.
And those women who did speak up? They were either dismissed or had money thrown at them; Weinstein in the past 20 years has allegedly reached private settlements with eight of the women who made claims.
‘In this exact situation we are absolutely talking about a classic power and control situation,’ said Rachel Krys, co-founder of the End Violence Against Women coalition which works specialist women’s support services, researchers, activists, survivors and NGOs working to end violence against women and girls in all its forms.
‘He is incredibly powerful in those women’s lives – it’s not just him, it’s his reputation, he is protected by a lot of people and one women coming out and rejecting him or going public would have had to carry a massive burden, and it would have massive impact on her career.’
Much of this is to do with the power inequality within job roles in Hollywood as well.
In 2016, women behind the scene in Hollywood comprised 4% of directors on the top 100 box office film, and within those 100 films women represented only 29% of all sole protagonists.
Women accounted for 14% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working that same year.
One can only imagine that if there were a more equal split between men and women working and producing movies, other women may feel more confident in reporting sexual assault.
Wendy Lyons from Human Assets, a group of business psychologists who can help companies to handpick the best talent for their business, adds that it is not just ‘up to the victims to challenge the behaviour’.
‘In many organisations, the most powerful people are still men, the culture is a patriarchal one and so women aren’t able to get the weight of support they need to stand up to this kind of abuse,’ says Lyons.
‘In the case of Harvey Weinstein, an extremely powerful man in Hollywood sexually harassing aspiring, often young, actresses seeking work in a highly competitive industry… women are often afraid that if they offend the perpetrator either by assertively rejecting his advances or by speaking out that there will be repercussions for their job/career,’ she says.
‘Women are also often afraid that they won’t be believed or even that they will be blamed in some way, for example “why did you go to his hotel room alone?”. Our organisations, and society more generally, have a big role to play in this, it is not just up to the victims to challenge the behaviour.’
It is known that predators such as Weinstein are fully aware of the power they have over women – it’s a power women have been fighting against since time began – but as Krys suggests, women in Hollywood, and many other insular industries, find themselves in a catch 22 situation.
‘You can reject one powerful man but you have to get a job somewhere… it took an avalanche of women started to talking about it before any individual had the confidence to call it out,’ she added.
‘It speaks to the whole of society and the way we view all of sexual harassment and violence, and women’s power in the workplace – we do need to get to a place when men and other bystanders could get to a point where they speak out, but there is real fear that you will be dismissed.
‘Women are regularly not believed when they talk about sexual harassment but once more women begin to come together – they can corroborate each other’s story as they’re all telling the same story and that gives them confidence.’
‘More women are speaking up about Weinstein as they see other women being taken seriously,’ adds Lyons.
‘The more powerful voices enable the less powerful to speak out with less fear of repercussions. However, the emphasis should be less on the victims to speak out and more on changing the culture of organisations and institutions to prevent and condemn this kind of behaviour.’
After all, as Krys concludes: ‘We too often blame ourselves and question ourselves- could we have done something different, and it’s important that women hear the message it is not your fault.’
Harvey Weinstein: The allegations that helped lead to the sacking of the Hollywood heavyweight
A number of women have so far come forward to accuse Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse during their time working with the 65-year-old.
As more brave ladies come forward with their accounts, we sum up which women in the film industry have so far spoken out against Harvey, accusing him of assault or harassment.
Rose McGowan is the highest-profile of Weinstein’s accusers, with it emerging she reportedly sued the movie producer for making advances on her during the production of the Weinstein-produced 1996 teen slasher film Scream.
McGowan claims she was abused by Weinstein inside a hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. Rose has previously claimed she was raped by a studio head and on Sunday, she tweeted about being abused by a ‘monster’.
It is claimed she signed a non-disclosure agreement after filing the lawsuit after allegedly being paid off by Weinstein.
Rose has since tweeted her thanks to The New York Times for ‘saving lives’ by reporting the accusations against Harvey.
Ashley Judd claims that during the filming of Weinstein’s movie Kiss the Girls, he repeatedly asked her to watch him as he showered and offered to give her a massage in his hotel room.
She says she remembers thinking at the time: ‘How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?’
Judd spoke out about Harvey this week as The New York Times posted the allegations. She said in a statement: ‘Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.’
Laura Madden is an ex-employee of Weinstein’s and alleges he asked her to give him massages from 1991 and onwards. She told the NYT: ‘It was so manipulative. You constantly question yourself – am I the one who is the problem?’
Like O’Connor, producer Elizabeth Karlsen shared her experience of claims she had been told by female staff. She claims a young female executive told her thirty years ago how she found Weinstein on her bed in a house rented by Miramax.
Emily Nestor was a temporary employee at The Weinstein company when she was allegedly invited to the same hotel as Judd and made another offer. Nestor claims that she had been offered a career boost if she accepted Weinstein’s advances in 2014.
Italian actress and model Ambra Battilana also claimed to the NYT that Weinstein had asked her if her breasts were real in a meeting in New York in 2015, before he allegedly grabbed her chest while putting his hands up her skirt. She is another victim Weinstein apparently paid off after police failed to press charges.
An audio recording made by Ambra later emerged, featuring Weinstein pleading with her to enter a bathroom and watch him have a shower.
Another former employee of TWC, Lauren O’Connor spoke out in 2015, telling executives that women were faced with a ‘toxic environment’. It followed her being told by a female assistant that Weinstein had coerced her into giving him a massage while he was naked. She was apparently left ‘crying and very distraught’. O’connor had written in her report: ‘There is a toxic environment for women at this company.’
Lauren Sivan claims Weinstein masturbated in a restaurant after trapping her there with him, climaxing in front of her during the incident in 2007 when she refused to kiss him, reports the Huffington Post.
She has since defended herself on Twitter for keeping silent for 10 years.
Another hotel incident was reported by Liza Campbell, a freelance script reader, who claims Harvey invited her to get in the bath with him, according to The Sunday Times.
Romola Garai stepped forward to document her own experience with Weinstein on Monday October 9, after many other allegations had already been made.
The 35-year-old actress recalled how, at the age of 18, she had also had to ‘audition’ with Harvey Weinstein as he sat in his dressing gown in a hotel room in London.
‘Like every other woman in the industry, I’ve had an “audition” with Harvey Weinstein, where I’d actually already had the audition but you had to be personally approved by him,’ said Garai. ‘So I had to go to his hotel room in the Savoy, and he answered the door in his bathrobe. I was only 18. I felt violated by it, it has stayed very clearly in my memory.’
Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director, claimed that Weinstein ‘forcibly performed oral sex on her’ but alleged that she refused to speak out because ‘he has crushed a lot of people’.
‘That’s why this story—in my case, it’s twenty years old, some of them are older—has never come out,’ she added.
‘The thing with being a victim is I felt responsible. Because if I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away. But I didn’t. And so I felt responsible.’
Gwyneth Paltrow claimed she suffered sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein in the 1990s.
She detailed how, after being cast in Weinstein’s Jane Austen adaptation of Emma, he touched her and invited her into his hotel room for a massage.
The mum-of-two, who also starred in Weinstein’s Oscar-winning movie Shakespeare In Love, which was a Miramax Films production, claimed she had been asked to attend a meeting in his hotel room when he made the advance. ‘I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,’ Paltrow told the New York Times.
Gwyneth, aged 22 at the time, bravely rejected his offer and then told her then-boyfriend Pitt, then aged 32, what had happened. At a party in 1995 Pitt then approached Weinstein and, without worrying about his own career in Hollywood, told him in no uncertain terms to never touch Paltrow again.
Representatives for Pitt confirmed the story.
In an email to the New York Times, which broke the story of decades of harassment by Weinstein on Hollywood women, Angelina also documented her own experience.
She said: ‘I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth. And as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did. This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.’
Cara Delevingne joined the list of actresses speaking out against Harvey Weinstein in a late-night Instagram post on Wednesday October 11, six days after the initial allegations emerged.
Also claiming sexual harassment, the former model turned actress recalled how, when she first began working in Hollywood, she received an ‘off and uncomfortable’ call from Weinstein asking her about who she had slept with of her group of friends, before telling her that if she were indeed gay she would never ‘make it as an actress in Hollywood’
She then revealed how a year or two later she she had to meet with regarding a film she was working on and how he ‘began to brag about all the actresses he had slept with and how he had made their careers and spoke about other inappropriate things of a sexual nature’.
Cara claims he invited her to his room and his assistant told her that she should go to the bedroom. In the bedroom there was another women and he then asked the two of them to kiss.