Since the news broke of Harvey Weinstein's atrocities against women, the door has been opened for his victims to share their personal stories of trauma that came at the hands of a man who was supposed to be helping them and their careers. The sexual harassment allegations go back decades, and most likely, more women will come forward before Weinstein is no longer front page news. Though he was recently terminated from the company he co-founded and kicked from both the Academy and the PGA, it's a small consolation for those who have spent years trying to heal from the damage he inflicted.
Coming on the heels of Weinstein's scandal was Honest Trailers creator and Screen Junkies stalwart, Andy Signore, being fired by parent company Defy Media after accusations of sexual harassment were leveled at him by two more women. Sadly, Signore likely won't be the last man in a position of power to be outed as having been wielding it for decades in an attempt to get sexual favors for promises of better jobs or a higher step up the career ladder.
These high-powered men are being outed one by one, and it's promising that Hollywood might actually be taking a step against these monsters. But because their pictures, names, and accomplishments are spread across the internet for the world to read, it's too easy for people to focus on the predators and not their prey.
Charmed actress Rose McGowan, herself a victim of Weinstein's, has called on ladies of Hollywood to speak out and to be brave. Though she indicated later that she was not speaking to his victims, fans haven't taken it that way as many have called out the actress for calling out women who may not be ready to share their own stories.
Yes, we need to shine a spotlight on predators' crimes, but it's not time to push sexual assault victims into doing anything they're not ready to do. Some women may never come forward to tell their stories because it's too painful for them to talk about, and that should be as okay as it is for the women who choose to share their story publicly.
Women have a history of not being believed when they report a sexual crime, and often, they fear reprisal. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that out of 1,000 sexual assaults, only 310 are reported to the police. The reasons vary, but 30% of victims surveyed feared retaliation while another 15% believed the police could not or would not do anything to help.
Many women put their careers, or even their lives, on the line only to have their reports dismissed or overlooked. They face other men in the company or in the industry who don't believe them. They may even be labeled as troublemakers because they don't "go with the norm". As these Hollywood allegations spread, more people are starting to offer their support to the women who've been traumatized, but there are still far too many victims who are afraid to come forward, afraid of what it will do to them or their family. They may be hiding in shame, wondering what they could have done differently to prevent the assault.
And while some of the victims have gone public and have accepted payouts from the company, that doesn't mean they are any less a victim. It doesn't mean their trauma is over, that they no longer suffer from nightmares or panic attacks. It doesn't mean that once the Weinsteins and Signores of the world are out of jobs and hopefully behind bars, these women will magically be able move on with their lives as though nothing happened.
No amount of money can compensate a woman who has been attacked, harassed, abused, or violated in any way. That money was simply to assuage the guilt of the perpetrators, and the women who accepted it had their reasons for doing so. Perhaps they didn't want the sordid story to be in the public eye or they wanted it to just go away. Perhaps they felt that it was all the apology they'd get, or that they needed the money to help them when depression and PTSD kept them from working. Whatever the case, they still live with the after-effects.
While reporters uncover even more allegations and the men in power try to hide their crimes, the most important thing we can ever do right now is to support the women who are coming forward and to let the ones that choose not to know it's all right to remain silent. Their silence does not constitute cowardice. It's self-preservation, and we should give them the respect these men never did.