Last week, the New Yorker published an investigative piece 10 months in the making, where 13 women described the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Since the piece was published, dozens more women have come forward with similar accounts.
As with most "bombshell" stories like this, the question arises, why didn't anyone come forward? How did he get away with this for so long?
But much like the sexual abuse scandals surrounding Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Donald Trump, women have been coming forward and telling their stories about Weinstein's abuse for decades, only to be met with threats of lawsuits, defamation of character, accusations of greed, and all around skepticism.
As Emma Thompson wondered this week, "Does it only count if you've done it to loads and loads and loads of women? Or does it count if you do it to one woman once?"
It would seem we only believe survivors when there are "loads and loads and loads" of them (that aren't sluts or weren't asking for it or hadn't been drinking, of course) and only when their stories can be corroborated by enough outside "objective" sources to fill a football stadium.
And even then, we might not believe them.
Or worse, we might not care.
As Molly Ringwald recently wrote for the same publication that initially broke the Weinstein story, "Stories like these have never been taken seriously. Women are shamed, told they are uptight, nasty, bitter, can’t take a joke, are too sensitive. And the men? Well, if they’re lucky, they might get elected President."
So, why don't women come forward?
Because a man can describe a sexual assault *on tape*, and a dozen other women can describe nearly identical experiences with him, and still we don't find it entirely unacceptable.
Is it unpleasant? Sure. (Honestly, no one was looking for "pussy" to be reintroduced into popular culture's lexicon.)
But it certainly didn't stop us from telling our daughters, our sisters, our co-workers and our friends, just a few weeks later, that their own bodies were a reasonable price to pay if it meant political gain. (And perhaps even worse, told our sons, our brothers, and our friends that committing sexual assault is not that big of a deal.)
Ugh, Sarah, get off of this soap box, 45's pussy grabbing tape is old news. You need to get over it.
I'm not over it. Not even close. Especially in moments like these, where as a nation, we are collectively horrified by the sexual violence women suffered at the hands of men like Weinstein (as we should be) but seem to have forgotten that we are outraged when it suits us. That we will, and have, tolerated men who spend decades demeaning and abusing women, if we have something to gain by our silence.
We should be using this moment to better educate ourselves on the prevalence of sexual assault in our communities (which, judging by the heartbreaking chorus of "me too" that filled my social media feed this week, is far more people than we realize), asking how we can better support survivors, and most importantly, how we can work to change a culture where a reign of terror like this is allowed to continue for so long.
But I don't know that we can do that, if we don't first acknowledge (and repent) that the message we sent every survivor of sexual assault last fall was that their safety and dignity were less important than culture wars and tax cuts and saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays".
It takes a village for the Harvey Weinsteins of the world to keep ushering unsuspecting women into their hotel rooms, cover up complaints, and smear victims. And our village is no less complicit in affirming and perpetuating a culture where these kind of predators go unchecked.
As Jill Filipovic puts it, the Weinsteins and the Aileses and the Cosbys of the world are easy to dismiss, and their downfalls, easy to celebrate. But the ones who are supposed to be on our side? To protect and support and believe us? Those are the ones who break our hearts.
Check out these organizations for ways to get involved, support survivors, and end sexual assault in your community:
RAINN: the nations largest sexual assault support network
It's On Us: combating sexual assault on college campuses
SafeBae: educating junior high and high school students about dating violence