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The Harvey Weinstein conversation: when deep pockets affect how we respond to sexual assault

Photo+courtesy+of+CNN
Photo courtesy of CNN

Photo courtesy of CNN

Photo courtesy of CNN

Chase Isbell

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At least 60 women have come forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment in the last month. In what could be described as a series of easily preventable atrocities, these brave women have started a conversation both in and out of Hollywood, and across the globe, about sexual assault and all of its implications. But how exactly can we respond to this scandal and what should we be taking from it?

First, we must take the stories of victims seriously, plain and simple. Victim blaming and shaming have been around for centuries, with rigid gender roles and the domination of female sexuality making women feel their behavior dictates how they are to be treated. Many women, even women as famous as those involved in the Weinstein scandal, expressed fear with regard to sharing their stories because they felt they might not be believed. Even worse, they may genuinely think they are partially to blame for the crime committed against them. Never at any point in society, but especially not in 2017, should any human being feel that a crime committed against him or her was somehow a result of his or her actions.

Nor should their stories be rejected by society. Why is it that a woman can say she has been robbed, and society believes her right away—yet dismisses her when she says she has been raped? What is it about sexual assault and harassment that make people take it so lightly? Not to mention, dozens of other celebrities, even those unconnected to the scandal, claimed to have heard rumors of Weinstein’s shameful behavior. Think of the women who could have been spared these tragic events if only someone had believed these rumors and looked into them a little more closely.

Photo courtesy of CNN

Second, we must attempt to break the hierarchical system that allowed such crimes to occur in secret. Not unlike other sexual assault victims, many of the women now sharing their stories have said they were too scared to discuss the harassment or assaults earlier on, as they feared they would be exiled from Hollywood and permanently left without a job. Is this truly the pinnacle of the society our forefathers dreamed of for this country?

Apparently, the narrative has quickly revealed itself to be that people with money and people in power can do and say virtually whatever they want. It’s as if every crime and misconduct has a price tag, and, so long as you can pay the bill, you are free to act as you please.

What is America’s—scratch that—the world’s obsession with rich people and protecting them from receiving justice? Don’t believe me? Look at our current president. A society in which we reward a man accused by dozens of women of sexual assault with the presidency is one in which 60 women may be forced into silence after being sexually harassed or assaulted themselves. It is our job to tell these powerful individuals that their money will never make up for the atrocities they have committed and that women are not expendable.

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The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University
The Harvey Weinstein conversation: when deep pockets affect how we respond to sexual assault