In a 2020 trial, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape and sexual abuse but acquitted of two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count of first-degree rape. In 2018, actor and comedian Bill Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Two men with vast fortunes and massive power, falling off their pedestals after reported years of sexual misconduct. It took many years, untold amounts of money, and numerous women to come forth for this to happen. Still, arguments and accusations continue against the women that reported and charged these men. The comments usually have two themes:
These women are looking for money/fame by reporting “abuse.”
Why did they keep working with these men if they were harassed?
Ask any woman who has ever been sexually abused, including verbal sexual harassment, “what amount of money would make up for the experience: One million dollars? Ten million?” In reality, it will never be enough. Anything purchased with the settlement – a mansion, a car - is blood money; a “payoff” is a reminder of that abuse. The mansion walls are a reminder of the victim’s pain; driving the car is reliving the experience. Playing devil’s advocate, let’s say the woman did falsely accuse the individual. The cost is high, legally, and emotionally. How much will this lawsuit cost? How much time is involved? How much is a person’s time worth? What amount of public humiliation can someone endure? Taxes alone on lawsuit settlements vary, and there are new tax laws on settlements from sexual harassment. (For information, click here.) The offender can declare bankruptcy, which means the victim might never see a settlement or receive restitution. Winning a million-dollar lawsuit does not mean someone skips happily out of the courtroom with a huge check.
In my second book, “When Nashville Bled,” I focus on victimization while telling the story of serial killer Paul Reid. One of the points I make is a victim/survivor has two lives: 1. Before the crime and 2. After the crime. The second life is colored by the crime. The survivor must work to keep her life from being characterized by the crime. The crime defines everything, to include her identity. For example, Sarah Jackson, a vivacious and pretty sixteen-year-old who was a dynamic softball player, became “Sarah Jackson the victim of Paul Reid” after February 16, 1997 when Reid murdered her. Even Sarah’s mother, a lovely, sweet woman, became “Gina Jackson, mother of Sarah the victim of Paul Reid.” It is an identity that no matter how hard they scrub, it will never wash. Thus talented actresses will now be known as “… one of the women who accused ____ of sexual assault” despite their accolades, their philanthropy, their talents. Women who are retired or no longer in the acting business will have the tag added to their names. Their lives are now forever shadowed. Even if they made false allegations, Jane Doe becomes “Jane Doe the raped woman.” Everyone will see her as a raped woman, envision the sexual assault, and she may become the brunt of jokes and blackballed in certain societies.
The majority of the women who were sexually abused by both Weinstein or Cosby reported the same feelings the first time these men made his inappropriate advances: the women expressed disbelief. This is a normal response. “This cannot be happening.” “I must be imagining it.” “He is so nice, so this must be ‘off’ behavior.” “Maybe it’s me.” Psychologically when experiencing any crime, women tend to self-blame, so naturally, women would self-blame during these unwanted advances.
So it only makes sense that, after the initial occurrence, the woman would have contact with this person again. Perhaps they feel they can “handle it” this time. One victim even reported holding her tiny lapdog in front of her for a barrier when Weinstein approached her a second time. Or the women self-blame. The woman blames alcohol, drugs (“I had too much to drink”), or the situation. (“We were in his private suite. Next time, we’ll meet in public.”) The “average” woman in her mid-twenties is raped on a date when both are intoxicated (which is the highest percentage of rapes), and we question, “Is she lying?” Think of how a blossoming starlet meeting a movie mogul considers, “Who is going to believe me?”
Sexual predators, like any predator, go for the weak. A jungle cat in the wild does not seek the most energetic, biggest deer to catch and kill. It looks for the lame, the old, or the youngest
(least experienced) because they are the easiest prey. The softest, vulnerable one is the easiest to manipulate, and the predator can make the victim feel safe so quickly with words, promises, knowing what the victim needs. Moreover, it is so much easier for a man of power, prestige - America’s Dad, for example, or a powerful, well-like producer who can make or break a career with one word.
Are these women looking for money/fame by reporting “abuse”? Who would want to be famous by being labeled “slut,” ‘victim,” “whore,” or “manipulating gold digger” while dedicating her life to making money she will probably never see?
Why did they keep working with these men if they were being harassed? These women’s lives, their dreams, all of their hopes set on “making it” in a business they think they understand, trusting someone who appears kind, a respected and revered leader, dedicated to their well-being. Alternatively, no one bothered to warn them.
Women have fallen for less. Women have lain on a cold slab wearing a toe tag for less. Nevertheless, they always seem to be blamed by too many who have never been in their heels.
Judith A. Yates recently appeared on The Oxygen Channel’s “Murdered By Morning” discussing the Shannon Sanderson case. This is one example of predatory behavior. CLICK HERE to view.
Photo: Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43944546