The Harvey Weinstein Epidemic
By Seán McHugh
The accounts of sexual abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein has been a victory for those sufferers of sexual abuse within the entertainment industry and beyond. But as more accounts come out, it seems Weinstein is but part of an epidemic of abuse that goes far beyond just Hollywood.
On October 5th 2017 the New York Times published an article that would be the downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Detailing the decades of sexual abuse of women at the hands of Weinstein, the article exposed the various forms of sexual harassment, abuse, manipulation and rape that Weinstein committed while in power as a top Hollywood producer. Currently over 100 women have come forward with accounts of abuse from Weinstein from those choosing to remain anonymous to household names such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rose McGowan. What perhaps is most shocking about this monumental injustice is that Weinstein’s abuse was not a surprise to Hollywood. While some have vocalised their shock and disgust at Weinstein’s actions others have brought a simple and frightening truth from the situation: That Hollywood is full of men like Weinstein.
A bold statement but one that has only grown more and more apparent since this abuse has been brought to the public eye. It is easy to see Weinstein as the kingpin of abuse in Hollywood; his manner, his appearance and the span of his committed abuse expose him as one of the worst known criminals in the history of Hollywood. But he is not the source of the abuse, merely a sign of it. Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K and Ed Westwick are some of nearly 40 male celebrities that have been accused of abuse following the Weinstein report, a list that is sure to grow. This abuse spans women and men, adult and child cases and is anywhere between decades ago to this year. All those who have experienced abuse and come forward should be applauded as through their bravery there is hope for changes in Hollywood for the first time in an age. But Hollywood is not the limit of this abuse.
On the 12th of October model Cameron Russell shared a story from an anonymous friend and fellow model detailing her abuse at age 15 by a prominent figure within the fashion industry. Posted to bring attention to the extent of abuse outside of Hollywood by other Weinstein- like figures; Russell shared the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse and offered to be a platform to share any anonymous account of abuse within the fashion industry. Since then she has posted over 80 harrowing accounts of women and men profiling systematic abuse by photographers, agents and industry professionals that still operate unhindered today. Many of these stories come from male and female models that show multiple accounts of abuse throughout their careers with some beginning as young as 13. Cameron has since stated that she will be working a legal team and those who have come forward to try and change the toxic and abusive environment of modern day fashion.
On the 6th of December 2017, Time Magazine named ‘The Silence Breakers’ their Person of the Year. These include all those recognisable and anonymous women and men that spoke out against their offenders and the industry that protects them. A huge and courageous step, through this acknowledgement every disclosure by each of these people drew attention to the culture of abuse and its permeation throughout all levels of industry. After all this, ‘The Silence Breakers’, Russel’s Instagram stories and the purging of those offenders from the Hollywood hierarchy, media outlets have referred to our current cultural trajectory as a ‘Post-Weinstein World’. But this is false. We are still in a Weinstein world as we have always been. Victims are still blamed, figures if beloved enough are still forgiven and acceptance of this being solely a Hollywood problem continues.
The fall of Weinstein specifically is a huge victory for progress and those who have spoken out against him and should not be diminished. Nor should the accounts of any of those brave few that spoke out against other abusive figures whatever the level of abuse. Their bravery has signalled the beginning of, possibly, one of the biggest social movements of our generation. We must support these sufferers of abuse, both outspoken and anonymous, to ensure the silence of abuse cannot continue. Weinstein was not an exception, rather he is a grim reminder of power of abusive figures in modern times and that we must all individually take steps to fight against this injustice and support those harmed by abuse at all levels of industry and society.
If affected by these issues please find 24 hour support at RAINN.