January 7, 2018

Sexual Assault Allegations Sweep America

Theo Deitz-Green ’19

Over the past few months, allegations of sexual assault against members of the highest levels of the entertainment, media and political worlds have rocked the fabric of American society.  
Beginning with the reporting by the New York Times on October 5 of dozens of allegations of sexual assault by women against then highly influential and widely respected film producer Harvey Weinstein, the country has seen an unprecedented wave of women coming out and accusing the most prominent members of society of sexual impropriety, ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault and rape.
During this period of time, beloved members of Hollywood, including Kevin Spacey; comedy, including Louis C.K; and the media, including Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer, have been fired from their respective shows and have seen their careers effectively shut down, at least temporarily, following disturbing allegations of sexual assault.   
For people across the America, and especially for fans of those who have been accused of sexual harassment, this period of time has been filled with reflection, disappointment, and anger. Students at Golda Och Academy have experienced similar dismay.
“When the allegations came out about Kevin Spacey,” explained junior Josh Kalet, a longtime fan of Spacey’s television show House of Cards, “I was very disappointed in him because I love all of his shows and think that he is very talented. It was hard to find out I had false notions about his character- who he is as a person.”
Kalet acknowledged that it will be difficult to enjoy Spacey’s work on House of Cards now that he knows what Spacey has down outside of the show.
As he explained, “It’s much harder to enjoy...when you know that the person playing your favorite character is not actually a good person in real life.”
Kalet was only one of many struggling to make sense of the newly unearthed dark side of beloved people.
Sophomore Eva Hale had been a passionate supporter of United States Senator Al Franken. In fact, she viewed him as an advocate for women’s rights. However, with the surfacing of sexual harassment allegations against Franken, that has all changed.
For Hale, the reaction was not just anger; it was confusion and pain.
“It’s strange to think that someone I had always admired was not who I thought they were.”
Yet, students across GOA acknowledged almost universally that as difficult and confusing as this is to each individual person, it is an incredibly import process that must be carried out for the sake of society.
They argue that the wave of allegations that has come out over the past few months does not reflect a new phenomenon.
Junior David Wingens noted that “this pattern of sexual harassment and assault is something that been happening for decades that has been swept under the rug and kept mum.”
Hale agreed with Wingens' assessment.
“It’s not that anything is different from how it used to be,” she said. “It’s that as more and more people are being found, more and more women have the courage to stand up,” and the “stigma” of the past, the idea that women should keep quiet and accept what happens to them, fades away.
However, many GOA students go beyond the idea that this is an important process.
Perhaps the most important point they make is that as painful as it may be for them to see the images of people they idolize shattered, their pain pales in comparison to that of the women who have actually had to live through sexual harassment and assault.
Hale noted that the revelations about Franken and Spacey “hurt.”
“But I also feel that I don’t have a right to be hurt because nothing happened to me,” she concluded.

While it will inevitably lead to discomfort and even distress, this movement is crucially important to the advancement of decency and equality in American society. It must be encouraged and seen through to its end. Most importantly, this process must lead to fundamental changes in the way people view each other in the workplace and ensure that patterns of sexual harassment and abuse that have been so common for so many years are never repeated.

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