Salo: Stop victim shaming


harvey weinstein

Megan Salo

Film producer Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of the Weinstein Company, was fired on Sunday after allegations of sexual misconduct against young actresses and former employees of the Weinstein Company and his former company, Miramax. 

The alleged misconduct dates back three decades. Among those who have recently reported past advances by Weinstein include Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and other actresses who appeared in his films. 

According to an investigation by the New York Times, Weinstein would typically ask the actresses to meet with him in a private location such as a hotel room. Sometimes they would discuss scripts or roles and then he would ask them for a massage or to take their clothes off. Other times, he would just be naked in the room when the women got there. 

Most of these young actresses, who feared losing their roles or chances of making it in the film industry, stayed quiet. Others, like Paltrow, told a few friends, her agent and her boyfriend of the time, Brad Pitt. Pitt confronted Weinstein at a movie premiere around 1995. 

More and more women are coming forward to tell their stories of inappropriate encounters with Weinstein with mixed responses. Many are sympathetic to these women, realizing why they waited to report, but others are not as supportive and some are even going as far as victim shaming. 

“They should have told the police at the time.” “They should have told him to stop.” “They should have just avoided him if they knew he was doing that.”

What should have happened? Harvey Weinstein shouldn’t have sexually harassed his clients. Plain and simple, that’s the only thing that should have happened. 

It wasn’t the victims’ fault in this case or in any case. Sexual assault is only one person’s fault, and that is the assailant. It doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing, what they were drinking, where they were, when they reported it, etc. There is no logical argument in saying that a victim deserved their assault and by shaming them for waiting to speak up on the issue, victims may be more hesitant to speak up at all. 

As a society, we need to support and protect victims and shame their assailants in all sexual assault or harassment cases, not just those that are in the news. 

We are so quick to question the situation – What were you wearing? Were you drinking? Why didn’t you tell someone sooner? – that we forget to ask the right questions: Are you okay? Do you want to talk about it? What do you need? 

I believe that in general, our society has an empathy problem that needs to be changed, especially in regards to sexual assault. And the first step to solving this issue? Stop victim shaming.