Here's How We Move Forward
The Aftermath of the Sexual Assault Revelations
On October 6, 2017, the first accusation came out. Not for the well-known producer Harvey Weinstein, but for Andy Signore, the lesser known creator of a digital brand, who happened to work down the hall from me.
Every day I saw this man in my office. I said “hi” to him by the coffee machine. I sat in on tapings of his show and complimented his humor. On October 6, Twitter revealed that my friendly colleague was a sexual predator, and I was inexplicably disgusted.
The sexual misconduct allegations started with Weinstein and ballooned into a movement that no one could’ve predicted. Acclaimed actors, high-ranking producers, famous comics, and more were being called out for inappropriate behavior and the public response was surprisingly positive. It was a breath of fresh air to see such immense support for the women in Hollywood, but it was only the start.
by christianna wiggins
In light of these accusations, it’s important to discuss how we can take the knowledge of these assaults and set new industry standards to begin moving forward.
Let’s start by changing the mindset. What constitutes sexual assault? How often do acts of sexual assault actually take place? In the simplest terms, sexaul assault is non-consensual sexual contact. But it’s not always so simple. Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted and they may not even realize it. Start by making a point to educate yourself and others on the intricacies of sexual harassment and assault.
This expands beyond personal circles. Speak to your employer about sexual assault training, if it isn’t implemented already, to make sure that everyone has a safe space to report incidents of assault and harassment. Surprisingly, many companies do not offer sexual harassment and assault training. To put the scale of this into perspective, according to Business Insider, members of Congress only began sexual harassment training in November 2017.
It may sound silly that someone could be unsure of an assault or need further education on something so personal; but the truth is, society is conditioned to ignore many acts of assault and this landscape is evolving slowly. The phenomenon of speaking up when you’re uncomfortable is very recent. A good example of this is catcalling. In the past, women or men who had been catcalled largely ignored it or categorized it as normal for years.
But, catcalling kept happening and, eventually, people started to admit that it actually made them pretty uncomfortable. Now, people acknowledge that catcalling shouldn’t be accepted as okay, but it takes exposure and education to learn and accept that. Make sure that you truly understand what constitutes as assault and harassment to avoid being a victim or a bystander of inappropriate behavior.
Aside from education, it’s important to bring forth different ideas and perspectives. It’s time to diversify the industry!
This is much easier said than done, but it’s important that people of power within entertainment hire more women, more people of color, and more diverse candidates all around. This will bring in different perspectives and help hold everyone accountable. It is much easier to spot an issue that disproportionately targets a minority of people, when you have that minority present.
On a personal level, if you are a woman in a smaller role, don’t be afraid to go for more esteemed jobs in the industry and to speak up for yourself once you’re in those positions. One small way to do that is to make a point of contributing at least one or two comments in larger meetings. Women are traditionally taught that they should be “seen and not heard” and that mentality has seeped its way into our media, our culture, and our office. Resist the urge to let the men talk and speak up, your opinions are important and wanted.
Lastly, men and women will need to tangibly support each other for everyone to feel safe enough to move forward. When the accusations first began, there was an outpouring of social media support, which was beautiful but largely impersonal. To inspire change on a smaller level, take the support offline and start an open dialogue with your peers about sexual assault. Express your feelings out loud. You are allowed to feel confused. You are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to be upset. Build a support network that is personal to you and talk out your frustrations.
Then, take it a step further and support victims of sexual assault in your neighborhood. There are several organizations, like RAINN, that you allow you to volunteer with local abuse shelters or to work on sexual assault hotlines. Volunteering allows you to see measurable results of your support and the tangible ways that you’re making a difference.This will allow us to be one step closer to a brighter future for our fellow women, peers, and the entertainment industry as a whole.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, please call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1.800.656.4673