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Sexual Harassment and Hollywood – Where Next?

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Scandal in Hollywood is nothing new, but this latest mess is far larger and far more horrifying than anyone is used to. Over the past few weeks, the sexual harassment claims that started with Harvey Weinstein have swept across Hollywood, revealing for the first time to the public eye the extent of the sexual assault problem that is plaguing our entertainment industry. Stars as big as Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman have been damningly accused of using their power to assault lesser known actors—both male and female—and currently it rather feels like everyone is simply waiting for the next big name to be accused. Now at the height of this scandal, where do we go from here? What happens next?

Worryingly, history would tell us ‘not far’. This is not the first time actors have been accused of sexual harassment. In fact, the industry has a rather long history of it. Alfred Hitchcock, the legendary director, has a whole list of accusations levied against him. Casey Affleck was hit with allegations back in 2010 by female crew members for the film ‘I’m Still Here’. R. Kelly has been involved in sexual assault allegations from as early as 2002. Roman Polanski, another prolific director, was actually convicted of rape in 1977. And yet none of these men have spent a day in prison. Hitchcock died aged 81 before any formal allegations were raised against him. Affleck settled out in court. Kelly was pronounced not guilty in court the first time, and avoided a second. Polanski simply ran away to France after being convicted, and was never shipped back. He is still making films, despite officially being a fugitive in the United States. And this list of people is very far from a conclusive list.

The simple fact is that because Hollywood entertainers have so much wealth and influence, getting an actual conviction on even the most blatant of offenders is immensely difficult. Bill O’Reilly—former anchor for Fox News—has spent $13 million over five harassment cases, and thereby gotten out of all of them. Woody Allen has been accused by his own daughter of sexual assault and the pair argued about it with letters published in the New York Times in 2014—yet he has never gone to court. And, of course, there is Bill Cosby, who despite being accused by over 60 women, on a timescale of over 40 years, has still not been convicted of anything despite admitting using sedatives during sex that he knew were illegal.

Convicting any of these people is just a nightmare. All of the current batch of accused, therefore, have a tried and tested way out: stay low, appear remorseful, try to settle prior to court, and if all else fails hire a good lawyer. If they do it right, they might even get jobs again, and if not, well, they are rich enough to ride out the rest of their lives anyway. What can we do?

Well, we cannot stop talking about this. The longer this scandal stays in the news, the less likely it is that society will forget and therefore more likely that celebrities can’t settle outside of court and put the whole thing to bed. Once it is in court, the justice system can do its job and judge whether these people are guilty or not and that will lead us to an answer.

If we stop talking about these allegations however, and it falls out of the news cycle, all this will lose steam again. The industry will return to normal. Weinstein and Spacey will never have to face any sort of unbiased judgement. And nothing will change. Let’s keep talking about it. If you’re reading this article, bring the issue up to your friends. Debate it. Discuss it. Help keep it in the public eye, so we can get the change we need. Because that is what this is about—change.

This is not about whether any of these people are guilty, it is about the fact that none of these people will be scrutinised by a jury over this if nothing is done. Spacey may be innocent. Weinstein may be innocent. It is even possible that Cosby is innocent. But none of them are currently facing any sort of jury.

Wealth and fame is proving to be enough to escape the justice system completely and that is wrong. Please, keep talking, make your voices heard and help keep the media and society on this story. Only then, will we see any sort of improvement to this awful situation.


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