When Ronan Farrow and the army of women lead by Rose McGowan pulled the thread that began the unraveling of Harvey Weinstein and Co, I could not help but feel tremendous relief and satisfaction that these predators in powerful positions had the high beams shone directly into their eyes. Unlike cockroaches, there was no way of scattering and disappearing into the dark of the night. This herd of deer was caught in the headlights and there was no escaping the brutal reality and karma of their despicable behavior.
The stink of these predators’ actions has permeated the entertainment industry for way too long and destroyed too many lives and opportunities along the way. Now the line in the sand that started with Weinstein has been drawn. In a town where sexual harassment and rape was once considered bad behavior and widely tolerated and hushed up, everyone and their decade-long rap sheets are scrambling for cover.
Sexual harassment and people abusing power is nothing new and certainly not confined to the borders of Hollywoodland.
People still wonder why no one came forward sooner or at least more publicly. I’m sure some women did or at least tried but were stopped by the machine that protects power and wealth. Not only do they have high-priced lawyers firing off scary cease-and-desist letters, but high-power-predators employ agencies and private investigators to tear through an accuser’s life and find any dirt they can dig up. They will stop at nothing to prevent a story from breaking and if that doesn’t work a crisis PR team will spin and spin to prevent anything unfavorable from making the news or turning into major headlines.
“You will never work in this town again” may be one of most overly used catch-phrases slung at actors and actresses stepping out of line or threatening the status quo. Until today, it worked. Fear is a powerful weapon. But times have changed. The feminine powers have awakened and are no longer willing to play by the old rule-book. Women everywhere realized that being authentic and full of integrity supplies powers to fight fear head on. They are raising their swords, spurring their horses and galloping bravely toward their enemies.
Every single man or woman who has been battered, raped, harassed and threatened is extremely brave to come forward. It’s not that easy and it takes guts to speak the truth. But it’s important we do so that actual change will occur. We must be vigilant that the awakening taking place is not simply a phase that fades with the lunar cycles or bigger news stories. We cannot let injustice prevail.
The guilt and shame one feels when sexual harassment happens is tremendous. You feel powerless and thoughts of “what the f*ck just happened” and “did this really happen” chase each other round and round in your brain.
My first experience with a predator was in my early twenties. I had just moved to Los Angeles and my manicurist at a prestigious Beverly Hills salon suggested she knew a great guy who was a producer and set me up on a date with him. Never having had a man touch me inappropriately before, this very tall and strong man had no problem ignoring me saying “good night” after dinner and proceeded to pick me up and throw me over his shoulder to carry me into his fancy house somewhere along the Venice canals and throw me onto his bed. For a second all I could see were the decorative iron stars dangling from his ceiling and then a wave of panic and fear washed over me. I knew I had a split second to act and only one chance to outmaneuver this predator. My adrenaline went into overdrive. I rolled off his bed instantly and took off like a bat out of hell. I lost a shoe somewhere along the way but unlike a fairy princess, I did not want the creep returning it to me.
I don’t remember the drive home nor much anything else from that night other than that sinking feeling in my stomach and my body trembling profusely. I knew I had dodged a major bullet.
This experience was my entry into the glamorous world of Hollywood and its power players. Women were second-class citizens and at the mercy of men who ran this town.
My second foray into the creepy world of Hollywood was a well-known TV director who invited me on the set of a pilot he was directing for Fox on the studio lot in Cheviot Hills. I was excited to have an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look and that I had a new friend who would teach me how things were done in the real world. I thought, it’s day time, I’m on the Fox studio lot, how dangerous could it be? Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While taking a break, the director came up to me and asked me to follow him to his office which was upstairs to the left of the stage. He locked the door behind me, sauntered over to his desk, sat on his chair and elevated his feet. He then unzipped his pants, shoved the key in his underwear and exclaimed, “you know what to do if you wanna get out”. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. My blood boiling, I made it clear I wasn’t that kind of a girl and he had to let me out instantly. He smirked and tried to convince me otherwise. I didn’t play along and started pounding on the door in hopes of anyone coming to my rescue. He quickly got up and opened the door. I left and ran out of there.
My third highly (and now all too familiar) inappropriate encounter took place one evening when I found myself in an intimate setting with a famous director I had become friendly with. As he was not interested in having a relationship but only wanted casual sexual relations I declined as I had no intention of having a one-night-stand with him. Being refused was a blow to his ego I suppose and his response was to take off his black belt, drop his pants, pull down his underwear and begin to masturbate in front of me. Forcing me to watch was such a degrading, inappropriate, surreal out-of-body experience that left me utterly confused and dumbfounded as to why a man would expose his privates and subject me to watching him get himself off. But I think it was more of a power trip than anything else.
Maybe what’s more disturbing to me, in this case, is that I sat in silence and horror as all this unfolded. I should have screamed, told him how to pack it up and show a girl some respect but I was frozen in fear. Fear of the unknown, his power, what it meant for me to say no and what it would mean for me to whack him in the junk and tell him to the get the hell out!
No woman or girl or man deserves to be subjected to demeaning or threatening behavior. By telling our stories, #metoo, we declare we stand together as one, that integrity and respect mean something, and that we no longer cower in fear. Decent people shouldn’t let rotten apples spoil their lives and business opportunities.
If someone harasses you, speak your truth, stand your ground, and make yourself heard. We can create a system where the powerless can file complaints without fear of retribution, the involvement of Mossad, private investigators unearthing unflattering details of your personal life, and newspaper editors publishing unfavorable stories of you.
You have the right to oust a perpetrator. You have the right to not be re-traumatized and judged by the perpetrator or public opinion. You have the right to speak the truth. You have an obligation to not succumb to fear-mongering and to stand your ground. If we as men and women continue to succumb to threats and fears of unemployment or future complications that may arise in workplaces due to our speaking out, we lose all over again.