How Victim-Blaming Allows Guys Like Harvey Weinstein To Get Away With It

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why victims don't speak out
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Rape culture keeps victims quiet, and rapists bold.

By now you've heard that Harvey Weinstein, a well-known American film producer, has been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and intimidation — from the very famous women to everyday women we've never heard of. 

Weinstein’s power and fame seem to have masked this misconduct, which was perhaps even reinforced as "normal" by the members of The Weinstein Company board, his friends, and other personnel who seem to have systematically ignored the abuse. 

According to Rolling Stone, the pattern of how Weinstein lured young women into his hotel room was consistent across victim statements and reports. Young women were under the impression that they were going to a professional meeting, and when they showed up, Weinstein was often naked or in a bathrobe asking for massages and/or sexual favors. In return, Weinstein would help their career advancement.

So, why did it take so long for victims to report the alleged sexual harassment and assault?

The truth is, many victims kept quiet about the actions and behaviors of Weinstein for many reasons. For actresses and those in the Entertainment industry, it was probably motivated because they were fearful of losing their careers. They were probably also ashamed.

One victim, Lauren Sivan, stated: “For those asking why I waited? YOU try telling that story 10yrs ago. [It's] only possible now because of women with bigger names far braver than me."

The reasons for women staying quiet remains consistent over a decade: fearfulness, shame, and guilt.

At the present time, we are still living in a society where women are encouraged to keep quiet and discouraged from going public when they are assaulted. Often times, this leads to victim-blaming, particularly in our society, which proves time and again the degree to which rape culture influences us. (Rape culture can be broadly defined as, "a culture whereby rape and sexual violence are normalized and possibly excusable by society".)

Rolling Stone reports a statement in which Weinstein blames the culture in the 60s and 70s, which were much different than times are now.

But what exactly is Weinstein trying to say? Was it once normal to rape, grope and harass women? That it was acceptable in the 60s and 70s to treat women like that?

It never was normal or ok to harm women, but his statement is a leading example of how the rape culture of that era convinced some men that rape and assault are normal. That they, as abusers, were normal (even though rape is not "normal" and has never actually be okay).

That this type of behavior on his part was allowed to continue for decades in the 90s and 00s says a lot about the rape culture of our times, as well. 

Rape culture and victim-blaming may also cause survivors may feel as if they could have done more to prevent the harassment or assault they experienced or that they are responsible for the crimes committed against them or report they weren’t strong enough.

Donna Karan, American fashion designer, implied that the women who are alleging Weinstein sexually harassed, raped and/or sexually assaulted them were to blame, as they put themselves in a position to be harassed or assaulted because of what they were wearing. This classic victim-blaming.

Karan states, “We have to look at our world … and how women are dressing and what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble."

Karan has since apologized for these remarks, but she clearly meant it when she said it. 

We live in a society and culture where women are fearful to report sexual violations that were done to them. On top of being afraid they won’t be validated or may not be taken seriously, victims of sexual misconduct will more likely than not have to deal with a society in which victim-blaming is acceptable and considered normal.

The truth is, the only person who is to blame for rape is the rapist. And it seems like people should know that. So why do people victim-blame?

Often times, it's because rather than acknowledging something bad could happen to you, you believe the victim invited the harm. It works as a defense mechanism to avoid thinking about doing everything right and something bad still happens.

In the end, this is the culture we live in and this needs to stop. We need to stop blaming the victim and look more thoroughly at the perpetrator and their motives or reasons for committing such heinous acts.  

After all, men with power, like Harvey Weinstein, will use society's own tendency to blame the victim to help get attention off himself — so he can continue harming young women. 

Here are a few ways we can all challenge rape culture, to hopefully make the world safer in the future:

  • Avoid degrading or objectifying language.
  • If someone reports a crime has been committed, believe them and take it seriously.
  • Critically analyze how the media portrays women, men, relationships and violence.
  • Do not allow stereotypes or gender norms to define who you are.
  • Advocate on behalf of victims.
  • Let people who have been victim to a crime know that it isn’t their fault.
  • Hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and behaviors.
  • Speak out against offensive jokes normalizing rape and sexual assault.

These are just a couple of ways to start taking action now.

Men and women should not feel afraid or fearful in reporting rape or sexual assault. We need to be the voices for those who have been silenced such as the few victims who were allegedly paid off by Weinstein to keep quiet.

If you are a bystander and not participating in the fight against the rape culture we live in, you are contributing to the problem.

Everyone deserves to be heard. We need to stop avoiding these issues. We need to start getting uncomfortable with the realities that it can very well happen to each and every one of us. We need to start having uncomfortable conversations about the realities and statistics of both violent and nonviolent crimes against men and women.

We need to give the freedom of speech back to those who have been silenced.

If you need support in coping with sexual harassment or assault, reach out for support. Contact RAINN, your local support group/therapist, or 1in6.org for men. 

Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.

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