2016 was the year of celebrity deaths. 2017 seems to be the year where our formally favourite celebrities have become dead to us. Numerous allegations of sexual misconduct (to say the least) have dominated headlines over the past few weeks and I have found myself devastated, shocked and furious all at once. From discussing the allegations with several people and watching as it has all unfolded on social media, I have become aware of the various reactions people have had. Most people are obviously angry and disgusted. Many people have pointed out the danger and injustice of trial by media (fair enough). Many have condemned those who have admitted to prior awareness of the abuse and chose to stay silent.
There are some, however, that seem intent on defending the perpetrators, on blaming the victims and on undermining and delegitimizing the sexual abuse. I have heard people say ‘this is only coming out now because everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.’ I suppose there is a kernel of truth to this. One victim coming forward has indeed paved the way for others to follow. Of course people feel safer and more reassured in numbers. Obviously, if someone comes forward and makes an allegation that is false, this is a huge problem. It is potentially career and life-ruining. But what about the allegations that are actually true? What about those victims who were genuinely harassed or assaulted? It’s going to prove difficult for them to prove their allegations. In the case of some celebrities, like Weinstein and Spacey, there has been no denial. They have admitted to their misconduct (although I feel that term somewhat undermines their abhorrent actions). But what about the allegations that have been made against celebrities like Ed Westwick? The ones that have been categorically denied but have come from multiple people? I guess we might never really know the truth. All I can say is that these things are often very difficult to prove. Maybe Ed Westwick is completely innocent; maybe he is a rapist. But don’t allow the amount of allegations that have been made undermine the ones that are true. The victims deserve to be heard; no matter how many of them there are. We must listen. This should not be a fad or a trend. These are lives. Lives that could have been destroyed by arrogant, powerful people.
This is a topic that it close to my heart because I have my own experience. I am not yet ready to talk about it. I am afraid, I admit it. I feel fear because I think I will be judged, condemned and maybe even blamed. I never really opened up to anyone about it, and the select few I did open up to reacted in the way I had feared they would. I put myself in a dangerous situation, I admit that, but I certainly didn’t consent to what happened after. It was by far the most frightening and humiliating experience of my life and I was frozen by fear and disgust. I didn’t react because I was terrified, ashamed and sickened. I am only ready to even admit this happened seven years later. I can’t bring myself to fully talk about it because it makes me feel disgusting and ashamed even though I know I did nothing wrong. But I do know that my story would be difficult to prove now. I have accepted that and I have to make my peace with it.
I understand these men and women. I understand why they only feel ready to come forward now and why they feel safe to do so when others are doing the same. I understand the anger, the pain, the doubt, the fear. All of it. I admire them because they are stronger people than I am.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment is not just a fad. It’s not just confined to Hollywood hotel rooms. It’s not something that can be simplified by sound bites and tweets. It happens to many people every day. No matter where or when, it is never, EVER, the victims’ fault.
I hope you guys don’t perceive me as weak because I’ve only barely touched on my own experience here. I know that if I opened up, it might help others to come forward. I know that I shouldn’t be afraid, that I shouldn’t feel ashamed. But I do. And it’s not something I can wash off in the shower. It’s with me all the time; clawing away under my skin.
So please appreciate the courage of those that have come forward. I know I do.