IN-DEPTH: Sexual Harassment
February 2, 2018
Where the problem lies
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”- the president of OUR country. This statement serves as the answer to so many questions regarding sexual harassment; when did it get this bad? Where does this stem from? How can we stop it?
To answer the first question, sexual harassment has been something that women specifically have dealt with forever, but only recently with our current political climate have so many women felt confident enough to report it. This statement by Donald Trump said more than 10 years ago is a perfect example of how this cultural norm of misogyny quickly turns into a battle to protect women from harassment. Let me reiterate- it was always this bad. Assaulting women is no current event, but, when this sexism becomes so ingrained into every aspect of our culture, it becomes difficult for women to speak out. And why shouldn’t they feel scared when, before the last few months, anytime anyone would speak out against a powerful person they were completely ignored, and made to feel guilty and embarrassed. It is only recently, that so many women have felt empowered and comfortable enough to tell their truths.
Now onto the second question. It is probably true that some people are simply raised without proper morals and never learned that things like this are not acceptable. But from a broader perspective,
From a young age women are made to feel as if their bodies are mere objects that can be judged and manipulated. So we ask, where does this stem from? This stems from every girl that had to take time away from her education to change her shirt because it was distracting her male peers. This stems from every boy hearing that they do not have to take responsibility for their actions because it is never his fault. This stems from every time a girl is asked, “Well, what were you wearing?”
Now finally, the last question. “Stopping” sexual harassment is more than just reprimanding every perpetrator and hoping they don’t do it again. To truly stop this, there needs to be immense changes in how we view and treat both genders. We must reject the claim that it is the woman’s job to protect herself against harassment, and start assigning blame to where it belongs.
Where #TimesUp Falls Flat
On Jan. 7, the annual Golden Globes award ceremony was held in Los Angeles, a ceremony that honors actors and actresses for their work over the year. The main focus of the ceremony was to protest the ongoing problem within Hollywood and bring light to the recent sexual harassment accusations. While many celebrities did protest by wearing all black to the event, many viewers couldn’t help but notice that the men who have been accused were participating in the protest. This resulted in the uproar of thousands of activists who believed that the protest did absolutely nothing towards the cause.
Many of the men who were accused of these acts were being praised and rewarded for their work, many disregarding the fact that they assaulted women and men in their industry. Many came to the conclusion that the protest did in fact no justice for the issue, because we, as the audience were praising those who have committed such acts. Supporting someone’s work is supporting that person, there is no excuse to look over the terrible things that they have done just due to the fact that they are talented. They don’t deserve to have their work be rewarded, nor do they have any business to protest an event that is bringing attention to acts they have been accused of committing.
People tend to overlook the fact that assault is assault; it doesn’t matter how good looking or talented the perpetrator is if they have committed a horrendous act against another human being. They need to be held accountable and be shut out by the public; they shouldn’t have people look up to them nor should they be nominated for awards. When they receive awards or they are featured on new projects, it is saying that we as a society don’t care what you do and it will be looked over because you are good looking and your art makes up for it. People will continue to support these people until we start to associate their actions with who they are, including their talent.
The fact that the man who openly admitted to possessing pictures of a minor was awarded the ‘Best actor in a comedy’ reveals that we, as a society need to rethink the way we view those who have committed such acts. There are actors who continue to be casted in big films while there has been evidence to prove that they have assaulted women and men. Recently, an accused domestic abuser was casted into the ‘fantastic beasts’ sequel. While many didn’t see anything wrong with the decision, activists noticed that fans of the film were overlooking the supposed act committed. The problem within the entertainment industry is that they value someone’s talent over who they are as people.
Until we, as the audience, start to associate what entertainers are accused of with their work the whole issue of sexual assault will not be resolved. We need to bring attention to the issue that has been occurring for a long period of time in Hollywood, we need to do everything in our power to show these people that what they are doing or did will not be looked over. They are adults that need to be held accountable for their actions; not be rewarded when they have committed inhumane actions.
To learn more about the issue you can go to this website.
Enforcing justice in the NFL
Professional athletes have been fighting for both social justice and criminal justice, rapidly capturing the attention of the press, as well as the general public. With kneeling during the national anthem and contributing to criminal justice legislative reform, their well-known actions have proven that professional sports give people a major platform for causing change. Yet, when professional athletes’ actions consist of committing sickening crimes and violating basic human rights, the athletic world seems to turn a blind eye. Currently, athletes are passionately defended by their management until finally proven guilty, then, they receive practically just a slap on the wrist for their horrendous acts.
The National Football League holds the majority of accused athletes, as arrests for domestic violence rates are higher in this league than in any other professional league. The NFL’s response to legitimate accusations have continuously been to suspend the athlete until a decision has been made in court. However, the majority of these decisions are never even finalized, as the verdict is left — conveniently — “undetermined.”
Furthermore, when an athlete is actually found guilty, many times it results in the mere end of their professional career. Even when sentenced, they do not receive the just punishment pertaining to these crimes. Why is it that when “average” people commit sexually violent crimes, a clear verdict is found and they are put away behind bars with no exceptions? Yet, when these “stars” do so, they get off relatively easy.
Americans all over the country idolize professional athletes, implying that these people ought to be inspirational and able to make a positive influence on those who cheer them on. I mean, if our criminal justice system allows for giving professional athletes special treatment, they must be truly just people who rarely make mistakes, right?
No matter how much talent a person conveys to the public, they are still a person living under U.S. law. We need sexual assault to end, but we cannot achieve this if our country does not adequately enforce its guidelines in all aspects of society. Meanwhile, the leniency given to athletes is completely counterproductive, as these are the people who are idolized and celebrated by the majority of Americans. Thus, an extremely effective way to enforce justice in our country is by holding professional athletes to the same standard as the rest of Americans.
The selectivity of accountability
Amid the countless careers being rightfully ruined by sexual misconduct accusations, many choose to ignore allegations of the same sort towards their favorites.
Harvey Weinstein. Woody Allen. Louis CK. Kevin Spacey. The list of older men who have had their careers majorly hindered by accusations of sexual misconduct goes on and on. Regardless of the progress made by recognizing the obscenities committed by these men, we continue to look past mistakes of the same nature made by younger, more attractive perpetrators.
When we’re not invested in an actor’s career and life, it proves remarkably easy to denounce their name from the top of the rooftop, telling everyone near how horrible and wicked the accusee is. Patting themselves on the back, many of these people denouncing people such as Weinstein or Allen view themselves as true activists, standing up for victims everywhere. However, the minute an accusation appears against a celebrity they’re a fan of, they’re quick to either stay silent, or speak out against the victim.
Cole Sprouse is just one of many examples of a highly idolized actors whose controversial behavior has been largely ignored due to both media silence and fan “loyalty.” Sprouse has accusations regarding both his views towards racism and his past relationship with an ex-girlfriend. While opinions differ, it is commonly believed that “white racism” is just a copout white people use to attempt to paint themselves as more of a victim and less of a perpetrator in the complicated topic of race relations. Sprouse discussed reverse racism on his Tumblr, arguing, “One doesn’t need to be in the position of power to be racist…of course white men have the most power, I never said they didn’t, does that mean I’ll allow ethnocentric racism directed towards me? No… turn to the teaching of MLK Jr. and I’m sure he’ll be in agreement.” Although Sprouse is consistently painted as “woke,” his words tell a very different story, but are often ignored. Aside from this, Sprouse’s ex-girlfriend has indirectly posted about emotional abuse, and, when asked, has not denied that the posts are about the actor, but fans of the actor have been quick to shut the victim down by citing how nice he seems to be.
James Franco has recently faced five separate accusations of sexual harassment, and the public seems to be finally realizing the type of person Franco is. However, this sudden turn on the actor is long, long overdue. In 2014, Franco admitted to knowingly chatting back and forth with a 17 year old girl, once asking her if he should “rent a room” for the both of them. In his defense, Franco cited “bad judgement” and said, “I’m embarrassed. I’m just a model of how social media is tricky.” While social media is broad and can be complicated, in no way is its “trickiness” an excuse for his conduct with the minor.
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Another prevalent example of the media and fans turning a blind eye to their favorite actors’ behavior is the case of Emma Roberts and Evan Peters. A highly publicized and admired couple, the pairing of Roberts and Peters is constantly looked up to and labeled as “goals.” However, all is not what it seems when you do in-depth research into the relationship. In July of 2013, Roberts was arrested for domestic abuse against Peters, leaving him bloodied and with a black eye. Peters decided to not press charges, and her representative described the situation as “an unfortunate incident and misunderstanding.” While many believe that those two factors end the issue, it’s important to think about how you would react if it were Peters who had hit Roberts. It’s easy to assume that Peters’ career would have ended immediately, and, if they stayed together afterwards, fans would constantly and rightfully demean and criticize the relationship. It’s the perfect example of a double standard. Because Roberts doesn’t fit the ideal example for an abuser, people are quick to let the situation go, which is unacceptable.
These examples, although highly detailed, are just a small aspect of the issue. Frequently, we fail to truly understand the people we support, or ignore the facts because of the initial impression the person gives off. It seems as though everyone today has some sort of accusation against them, so it may seem impossible to avoid. However, it really is just as simple as searching the celebrity’s name followed by “controversy” or “sexual harassment.” If you want to call yourself an advocate, you have the obligation to research before you support. If not, the word “advocate” does not belong to you.
Counselors help students through sexual harassment
Although it may not always be visible, sexual harassment has always been a issue in our society. Recently, the situation has been brought to light by the stars of Hollywood and members of the community. However, sexual harassment is not just a problem for the stars of Hollywood, but for everyday people like yourselves.
By talking to others about their own experiences with sexual harassment, people can begin to deal with their experiences and spread awareness to others. School councilor, Mr. Blackburn talks about his past encounters in helping students through their exposure to sexual harassment.
“I have had students (come to me) and obviously I’ll bring it up to administration,” Blackburn said. “Usually I have the student write a statement about what’s happened, bring it up with administration and if need be our resource officers who get involved as well. I end up doing the counseling aspect of whatever the issue is, but as far as disciplinary, I bring it up to administration and/or a resource officer and get them involved as well. They follow up with the disciplinary side of things.”
Other than dealing with the disciplinary aspect of the situation, Blackburn helps the affected students push through their experiences and shine light on the situation day by day.
“I can have a kid come in and tell me about something that’s happened off campus and my place in that is the counseling aspect in regards to what’s going on,” Blackburn said. “I do the same thing whether it’s on or off campus, to notify administration or a resource officer to be involved as well. If it’s a situation that a student is telling me and the situation already has cops involved then I just verify with the resource officer and say ‘Hey this is what the student told me. Just a FIY. Just to make sure you guys were involved in it.’ Often times, I’m just here to support the student weather or not it happened on or off campus I’m just having those conversations with the kids and sometimes the families as well and also, depending on the situation, referring the student to outside counseling. More like ongoing counseling services to an outside agency. I think it depends on the kid and the severity of the situation.”
Students can drop-in to visit and talk to their councilors at break, lunch or after school as well as scheduling an appointment. The counselors are accessible to students so that they can talk about any concerns or issues on and off of campus.
“I have never been sexually harassed, but I feel like the counselors would be good people to talk to because they would know how to handle the situation and how to help the students,” sophomore Lydia Barajas said.
Recently, the issue of sexual harassment has arisen back into the attention of society due to the recent buzz in the media about harassment between the stars of Hollywood. These events have given victims a chance to talk to others about their experiences.
“It is so much in the media right now, so I think it’s brought a lot of awareness to the situation,” Blackburn said. “You begin to talk about it and hopefully people become aware of their actions and the impact it can have on the other person and the impact it will have on themselves. Like all the people in the Hollywood stuff, that it’s come out and the impact it has on them as far as their careers go and personal life. I think (the attention of sexual harassment in Hollywood) has brought a lot of awareness to the topic and the situation. It may not have been there for years and years.”
Awareness of sexual harassment can help prevent future situations and make people more perceptive of the consequences of their actions. Everyone can make a difference just by making the world more aware of this problem that has affected millions.
“I think that a solution is having those conversations about it and having communication, and bringing it to light and bring awareness to the situation and the impact that it has on other people. Without some people just thinking about themselves and how they feel, they have to think about the impact their decision.”
Not every story is the same
Accusations against Melanie Martinez raise awareness that women must also be held accountable for sexual harassment.
On Dec. 4, Timothy Heller, an aspiring artist, shared the story of her sexual assault on Twitter. The post went viral, receiving over 50,000 retweets within the first eight hours of it being on the social media platform. Pop singer Melanie Martinez was accused as the sexual actor within the post, which brings forth an issue that is not often discussed. It is necessary to shine light on the fact that women can sexually assault people too, and this issue, although often perpetrated by men, is not one-sided.
As seen within the recent news of the sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, just to name a few, it is difficult to also acknowledge Melanie Martinez as another individual accused. This is widely due to the stigmatization behind men and rape. This is in no way meant to break this barrier as men are most commonly the perpetrators, coming in as the cause of 93 percent of sexual assault cases. This is meant to showcase that the bond between two women, or anyone let alone best friends, does not make harassment any less real.
As indicated by Heller, “The thought of accepting that my best friend raped me seems insane. Even typing that doesn’t feel real to me.” Heller indicated co-dependency between her and Melanie Martinez at the time, that took a terrible turn after a two-night sleepover.
According to Rape Response services, “Popular culture, things like books, movies and television, makes it seem like rape only happens a certain way. In reality, there are many different ways perpetrators use sexual violence to hurt their victims and there are many different ways in which people respond to sexual violence. For example, popular culture tells us a victim of rape will always fight back, but this is not the case.” This makes it all the more important to acknowledge that silence does not mean consent, and that rape and assault can occur between confidants.
The simplicity of differentiating between what is rape and what is not rape is consent, and as far as both Heller and Martinez have spoken out, there was none.
Martinez responded to the allegation with, “She never said no to what we chose to do together.”
It is necessary to broaden perspectives on how rape occurs and who it happens to. The idea of “allowing it to happen” becomes a matter of vulnerability and disbelief. As Heller wrote, “ It is hard to say that someone you loved raped you.” Contrary to popular belief, 70 percent of sexual harassment is done by someone close to the victim. Rape culture that has restricted stereotypes to only men harassing women need to stop, as does rape culture as whole and in any generality. The possibilities are a lot more broad, and it often times a lot harder to accuse a woman of a crime that men are associated with.
As Heller has stated it is necessary to acknowledge that “Girls can rape girls. Best friends can rape best friends. Friendship doesn’t equal consent. Silence doesn’t equal consent.”