I Was Raped By A Director — Then Warned That Reporting Could End My Career (Or My Life)

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MeToo: I Was Raped By A Hollywood Director And Threatened Into Silence

What can we do now to heal as a culture?

Written by Dr. Ava Cadell

As I added my name to the thousands of women (and many men) responding to Alyssa Milano’s use of the #MeToo hashtag this week, I was struck by the sheer volume of stories of sexual harassment, physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. I literally cannot name one female friend or client who hasn’t been affected by sexual predatory behavior, and seeing all the people in my life come forward on social media with the simple “Me Too” declaration is an ongoing profound experience.

As Hollywood actresses break their silence around sexual harassment and abuse of power in the entertainment industry in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, the accusations reveal story after story of truly outrageous and disgusting male behavior. Sadly, most women I know are so accustomed to the systemic misogyny in almost every industry that they’re not surprised at all. And I include myself in that category.

Like Reese Witherspoon, I was raped by a Hollywood director. 

And like her, I was told to stay silent about it and all other sexual harassment I faced, lest it ruin my career — or cost me my life.

RELATED: The Real Reason So Many Powerful Men Abuse Women (And How We Can STOP It)

Now as I teach sexual healing decades later, I most often examine this harassment culture through a lens of recovery as I help women get on with their lives and enjoy their sexuality again. And this recent tidal wave of awareness has me feeling hopeful that we may finally stop it at the source. But how can we do this?

Tarana Burke, who originally created the “Me Too” campaign ten years ago, believes the solution lies with empathy, and I think she’s right. In solidarity, women have power. In great numbers, our stories do matter, and can’t be swept under the rug of, “Well, look at what she was wearing, she was asking for it,” or “Why didn’t she say something at the time?” But it's time to stop expecting victimized women to change the system, and I am uplifted seeing all the men that are appalled at the #metoo numbers and are vowing to ‘call out’ their fellow males when they behave inappropriately.

Harvey Weinstein defended his behavior in part by saying that he grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when treatment of women was "different." Can the same defense be used by Bill Cosby? Roman Polanski? Roger Ailes? Bill O’Reilly? Woody Allen? Donald Trump? Is the ‘Baby Boomer Defense’ going to replace the ‘Twinkie Defense’ in the history of flawed justifications?

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I can’t help comparing Weinstein to my late husband of 25 years, also a Jewish American man who came of age during that period. He never raped anyone and managed to maintain a life-long high profile career without putting women’s rights and safety in jeopardy. So, why do some men bully and intimidate while others don’t?

One scientific fact at play here is that testosterone is an intoxicating chemical.

I’ve spoken with transgender men who were surprised by how their own behavior changed when they began transitioning and taking testosterone hormone treatment. Some described feeling a narrower range of emotions, as well as less sympathy for others in general and increased feelings of aggression. So it’s no wonder men are responsible for much more of the predatory behavior that gets reported daily, but obviously, this is not an excuse for causing harm and abuse to others.

Men must evolve.

Another part of the equation is that harassment takes on so many different forms that it makes it difficult to see every behavior as fitting under the same umbrella. Yet as soon as you allow a grazed breast to go unmentioned, you’re opening the door to something worse on the spectrum “from sexual harassment to murder,” as Burke describes the gamut.

I was a Playboy bunny and have hosted many sex-themed radio and TV shows. So, as you can imagine, I’ve brushed off more harassing comments and behavior than the average woman. This means my point of view of what "can" be tolerated — not that it should ever be — will be different from the next person’s.

To make things even more complicated, many women have bought into the belief that they should seek out men’s sexual approval.

For example, a friend in her 50’s recently told me how guilty she feels about her elation at getting catcalled when walking past a construction site. That’s classic unwanted behavior, yet she had a visceral, positive reaction to being treated as "f**kable at 50", to quote Hollywood lingo. Women constantly seek approval because of the cultural messaging we receive, and this is not helping us on our journey toward equality.

So, Weinstein has been ousted by the Academy of Motion Pictures and even his own company, and now Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, has resigned following accusations of sexual harassment as well. But what about the predatory culture-at-large? As director Sarah Polly's essay in the New York Times this past weekend titled "The Men You Meet Making Movies" aptly points out, Weinstein is “just one festering pustule in a diseased industry.” 

What can we do to heal as a culture?

I would suggest that as we raise the next generation of men, we need to do a better job teaching them that they MUST treat women with respect. We must stand up for ourselves and react as immediately as we can to unacceptable behavior. We must help each other, both women and men, define what unacceptable behavior is and how to recognize it without having to debate it. We must call it out early, often, and loud, standing tall and proud as we look predators in the eye and name their behavior, indicating that we will no longer be silenced or pretend there is an alternative explanation.

We must bring lawsuits, we must speak up, and we must forgive ourselves. And as we heal, we can slowly change this culture from one of prey vs. predator to one of equality and consent.

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Dr. Ava Cadell is America’s #1 Sexpert as a Clinical Sexologist, Sex Counselor, Founder of Loveology University and President of the American College of Sexologists International. Author of 9 books including the upcoming Sexycises by Sexperts: Intimacy Through Yoga, Dr. Ava is also a sought-after media therapist and global speaker whose mission is to empower people to overcome sexual guilt and shame so they can enjoy the benefits of healthy, sexual relationships.

This article was originally published at Sexpert.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.