Sexual assault is when a person sexually touches another person or forces them to engage in a sexual act without their consent. There are various forms of sexual assault: Child sexual abuse, Domestic violence, Elderly sexual abuse, Groping, Rape, Marital rape, Sexual harassment, and Mass sexual assault. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network(RAINN) defines sexual assault as any unwanted sexual contact that stops short at rape or attempted rape, sexual touching and fondling included. But there are numerous definitions of sexual assault. Consent must take place between two adults who are unfit and can change during any time during the sexual act.
Harvey Weinstein is an American film producer and executive who gained fame producing independent films as co-founder of Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company. In October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker reported that dozens of women accused Weinstein of sexual abuse over a period of at least 30 years.
Shortly after the news broke, Weinstein was dismissed by the Weinstein Company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and other professional associations. Criminal Investigations into complaints from at least six women are ongoing in Los Angeles, New York City, and London. The scandal triggered many similar allegations against men around the world and led to the ousting of many of them from their positions. It also led to many women sharing their own experiences of sexual assault, harassment or rape on social media under #MeToo. The impact of the scandal on powerful men in various industries came to be known as the ‘Weinstein Effect.’
Tales about Harvey’s practices circulated in Hollywood for years. Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Love tried to warn fellow actresses about Weinstein, but it fell on deaf ears. The popular TV series 30 Rock have referenced the situation in an episode. At the 85th Golden Globes, host Seth MacFarlane made a joke while announcing the Best Supporting Actress nominees saying “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” Many thought this was in poor taste, but MacFarlane thought otherwise. He explained, “In 2011, my friend and colleague Jessica Barth, with whom I worked on the Ted films, confided in me regarding her encounter with Harvey Weinstein and his attempted advances.”
#MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a two-word hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the public allegations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The phrase, long used by social activist Tarana Burke to help victims realize they are not alone, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Variations of #MeToo are being used, with people coming forward and talking about the sexual abuse endured in their respective fields.
Times Up is a movement against sexual harassment founded on January 1, 2018, by Hollywood celebrities. In response to the Weinstein effect and #MeToo. In November 2017, the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas wrote a letter of solidarity to the Hollywood women involved in exposing the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The letter describes experiences of sexual assault and harassment. It’s written on behalf of approximately 700,000 female farmworkers in the United States.
After the Weinstein Effect, many women came forward accusing a couple of big names. The most recent accused being Aziz Ansari. The victim, a photographer met him in 2017 at the Emmy Awards after-party. They hit it off and ended their night by exchanging phone numbers. They spent the whole of next week flirting over texts until they met on their first date on Monday, September 25th. They enjoyed the evening and eagerly made their way to his apartment. Things went down south from here on. Throughout her short time in his apartment, she says she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was. Aziz acknowledged they engaged in sexual activity but says “by all indications it was completely consensual.” But consent can change any time during the sexual act we should know when to stop. Since Aziz says he’s a feminist, this came as a surprise to many. He was also seen proclaiming support for sexual harassment by wearing the Times Up pin at the 2018 Golden Globes.
Sexual harassment isn’t unheard of it’s been around for a while now we just don’t want to talk about it. Every time someone does come forward, the victim gets shamed instead. If the victim is a man, he gets ridiculed. Sexual assault is a serious problem and needs to be acknowledged. How effective is consent? Does it even matter anymore? What are we doing to eradicate this problem? And is it an issue only because Hollywood is at the centre of it? Conversations about sexual assault should be normalized and not considered a taboo. How can we expect victims to come forward and talk about it when all we do is put them down?
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