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Hot Topic for November 2017 Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

Current Hot Topic for November 2017

Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories


Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

Background Story

Kate Beckinsale, Lysette Anthony and Gwyneth Paltrow are among dozens of women who have come forward with allegations ranging from rape to sexual harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Together, the claims build up a picture of one of the most powerful men in the industry exerting pressure on younger women at the start of their careers, often in hotel rooms and offices.

Lucia Evans encountered Weinstein in 2004 when she was an aspiring actress: “It feels like a very streamlined process. Female casting director explains Harvey wants to meet. Everything was designed to make me feel comfortable before it happened. And then the shame in what happened was also designed to keep me quiet.”

Multiple allegations recounted similar details: meetings and professional events moved to hotel rooms, bathrobes and massage requests, and, in some cases, forced oral sex.

“It’s a pretty clear case of sexual harassment when your superior, the CEO, asks one of their inferiors, a temp, to have sex with them, essentially in exchange for mentorship.” Emily Nestor, a temporary front desk assistant, recalled refusing his advances at least a dozen times. “’No’ did not mean ‘no’ to him,” she said. “I was very aware of how inappropriate it was. But I felt trapped.”

Kate Beckinsale was 17 when she was first called to meet Weinstein at the Savoy Hotel. She was surprised to be sent to hotel room not a meeting room, where he greeted her in his bathrobe. “I was incredibly naive and young and it did not cross my mind that this older, unattractive man would expect me to have any sexual interest in him. After declining alcohol and announcing that I had school in the morning I left, uneasy but unscathed. A few years later he asked me if he had tried anything with me in that first meeting. I realised he couldn’t remember if he had assaulted me or not.”

Several former employees have been speaking out about Weinstein’s alleged behaviour now because they hope to protect women in the future. An executive who worked for Weinstein for many years explained, “This wasn’t a one-off. This wasn’t a period of time. This was ongoing predatory behaviour toward women – whether they consented or not.”

For more than twenty years, Weinstein has been trailed by rumours of sexual harassment and assault. His behaviour has been an open secret to many in Hollywood and beyond, but previous attempts by publications, to investigate and publish the story fell short of the demands of journalistic evidence. Too few people were willing to speak, much less allow a reporter to use their names, and Weinstein and his associates used nondisclosure agreements, payoffs, and legal threats to suppress their accounts.

In a statement on Oct. 10, his spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister, said: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. Mr Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.” sexual-assault-harvey-weinsteins-accusers-tell-their-stories

Whistleblowing - Women are not the only individuals who are subjected to sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Men whose sexual desires are out of control also prey on men; and it can happen, too, that women in positions of power will take advantage of men. Several employees have spoken out about Weinstein’s behaviour and shared that the company’s HR department was “completely ineffective”. The employees that have provided information have stressed their worry about Weinstein finding out their identity, claiming that “he could ruin my life”. This creates the impression of a powerful figure and the influence an individual can have, and potentially abuse. What is whistleblowing? If you were to witness or experience sexual harassment in the workplace, would you know what you could do or who you could go to? What is your understanding of ‘abuse of power’?

Sexual Harassment - Countless women outside Hollywood said they had experienced similar harassment and assaults in their own industries. A hashtag, #MeToo, quickly spread through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as women, and some men, shared their personal stories and displayed how widespread the problem was. The Equality Act 2010 defines sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.” Can you identify any examples of what could be recognised as sexual harassment? Reporting of sexual harassment tends to mainly occur when women are the victims: why do you think this is the case?

Harassment and Mental Health - For one victim, Asia Argento, her encounter with Weinstein has had serious long lasting effects. In one report she described the incident as a “horrible trauma”. Decades later, she has said that particular forms of intimacy are still ruined for her. “I’ve been damaged. Just talking about it, my whole body shakes.” The Health and Safety Executive identified that harassment and bullying can result in psychological health problems such as depression, anxiety or low self-esteem. Those who experience harassment can feel anxious, intimidated, threatened and humiliated. In extreme circumstances harassment and bullying has led to self-harm and even suicide. What support does your organisation have in place for individuals who have been harassed or bullied in the workplace? Can you identify any support networks for individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or assault?

Victim Blaming - Several women who have made allegations towards Weinstein have blamed themselves for what happened. This should not be the case. If you have not consented verbally, clearly and without coercion, then this is rape or sexual assault. Some individuals make comments about sexual assault or harassment situations and ‘victim blame’. Victim blaming can have serious negative effects on an individual, leading them to self-blame. It is important to ensure that there is a freedom to speak out, especially in these circumstances, without the fear of persecution. What is self-blame? What is victim blaming? How can victim blaming affect an individual? What impact could this have on an individual’s freedom to exercise their rights?

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