How Harvey Weinstein Propositioned Me In One Of His Infamous Hotel Rooms

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What Is Sexual Harassment? I Ignored Harvey Weinstein's Inappropriate Request, But Now I'm Saying 'Me Too'
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I didn't think it was sexual harassment at the time, but it was.

By Dr. Ava Cadell

As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to bring sexual harassment and abuse incidents to light at breakneck speed, the onslaught of cases has many people wondering which laws are actually in place to punish offenders.

At the same time, we’re also witnessing an anti-#MeToo wave, notably defined by the open letter from 100 Frenchwomen — including Catherine Deneuve and Abnousse Shalman — published in Le Monde expressing their concerns about going too far with rewriting the culture by doing things such as erasing certain actors from films.

In the missive titled "We defend a freedom to annoy, indispensable to sexual freedom," they warn of a Puritanical wave that could reverse the progress and awareness the Me Too Movement and its French counterpart, #BalanceTonPorc (French for “Expose Your Pig”) have raised.

 

RELATED: Silence Breaker Tarana Burke On The Me Too Movement & Where We Go From Here — 'This Moment Is A Gift'

 

Personally, I think that sexual abuse has been so rampant for so long that a little collateral damage isn't the end of the world.

I’m not too concerned that a new wave of “political correctness” is going to undermine my freedom to act sexy or allow a date to open the door for me. After all, the “PC police” of the 1980s and 1990s didn’t stop the devastating number of campus rapes.

In researching my new sexual healing memoir with solutions for sexual abuse survivors, over the last several months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the subtle differences between types of sexual harassment and abuse.

To borrow a phrase many have echoed on Facebook, “It’s complicated.”

In 1981, when Harvey Weinstein bought a British movie that I starred in called Spaced Out, Miramax paid for me to go to Chicago to promote it.

He invited me to his suite at the Intercontinental Hotel to meet him for the first time.

When I arrived, his door was slightly ajar, so I peeked in to see him sitting in a bathtub with his back to the door. I called out to him and he turned his head with a smile and said, “You can come in to wash my back if you like.” I giggled nervously and said, “No thanks, I’ll meet you downstairs in the bar,” and left.

It was an unmemorable experience which I personally did not describe as harassment at the time. The sexual predators of my past had so influenced my behavior that it honestly didn’t even occur to me that it was abusive in any way. I even laughed it off with comedian Bob Saget who was there promoting the same movie, as Miramax had replaced the original British spaceship’s computer voice with Bob’s American one.

Another woman might have been devastated by the exact same experience, and it would have been completely within her rights to call out his inappropriate behavior.

It didn’t feel like harassment to me, but then, in 2017, I wasn’t shocked to see Harvey’s crimes splashed on the headlines.

 

RELATED: This Is What Happens When You Go To HR With A Sexual Harassment Claim

 

If I had that incident to do over now, I would have called out his behavior because maybe it would have helped someone in the future to have something on the record. But was Harvey’s behavior with me specifically criminal?

It certainly qualifies as sexual harassment as defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Take a look at this section of the code from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

“Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.”

But these laws are only applicable to the workplace when there are 15 or more employees working for the company.

Harvey may have had 15 or more employees at the time, but would I have been considered one of them as an actor in a film he merely distributed? Probably not, and so I probably would have been laughed out of any police precinct in the country, especially given the time period in which it occurred.

I’m using this incident to illustrate the need for new, more descriptive and comprehensive laws.

We need to map out the various types of harassment that exist and have a serious conversation about what the consequences should be.

I’m sure the French ladies who signed their letter of warning would say that my Harvey story was not criminal, but if you look at it from, say, Rose McGowan’s point of view, maybe his pattern could have been disrupted and she would have been spared the trauma of sexual assault at his hands.

McGowan’s allegations obviously fall squarely into those crimes outlined in the U.S. Code Title 18, Crimes and Criminal Procedure.

Part of my own sexual healing from abuse has been to define the behaviors of my aggressors in an attempt to figure out what it is exactly that I’m recovering from.

 

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

 

My personal story is extreme, beginning with rape in my early childhood and including sex trafficking during my teens, and looking back, the most destructive element aside from the abuse itself was how it was all normalized by those around me. There was an expectation of secrecy I was forced to participate in, because I feared for my own safety and worried about possible retaliation by my abusers if I were to speak out.

Silence is deadly, and in my case, it led to extreme self-doubt and depression.

That’s why, in light of the #MeToo movement, I’m heralding a new cry: "When in doubt, call it out!"

Trust your instincts. If you think someone is acting inappropriately, or you know they are but aren’t sure whether or not you should say something — say something!

It’s the only way we can move away from the appalling appearance of passive “consent” we inadvertently bestow on creepy individuals when we don’t speak up!

And speaking of consent, here is the Sexual Consent Form I created in 2006, with my late husband Peter Knecht, who was a criminal defense attorney.

The catalyst was the case in which Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a woman with whom he admitted to having engaged in sexual intercourse. There was a tremendous amount of “he said, she said” involved, and I thought it was about time for America to come up with a solution whereby both parties about to have sex could slow down for a moment, presumably long enough to talk about what they were about to do.

By the way, this is a good idea for any couple, whether it’s sex on the first date or between a married couple.

As I wrote in 2014, when Governor Jerry Brown signed the “Yes Means Yes” legislation in California, here are 7 reasons I think this form works:

1. The Sexual Consent form is a cautionary way for one person to ask permission to have sex with another.

2. There will be no confusion or miscommunication as far as sexual consent is concerned by both parties.

3. Nobody is obligated to sign the Sexual Consent Form if they are not ready for sexual intimacy.

4. The Sexual Consent Form can be a form of foreplay since you get to talk about safer sex and sexual behavior before rushing into it. This can create open communication and lead to mutual trust and respect.

5. You and your partner get to choose which sexual activities you want to indulge in and list special requests in writing so there are no unrealistic expectations or misunderstandings.

6. Men and women can benefit by signing The Sexual Consent Form even if they change their minds in the middle of the sex act. However, instead of using the words “No” or “Stop,” I created the phrase "CODE RED" which will not be mistaken for anything other than a high alert statement that says, "Hands off, you’ve gone too far." You may be interested to know that such non-sexual "safe words" are often used in consensual BDSM (bondage & discipline/Dominance & submission/sado-masochism) activities so that people don’t get carried away.

7. The Sexual Consent Form can protect men and women by raising awareness in the moment.

 

RELATED: The Actual Definitions Of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Harassment For People Who Think The Rules Have Changed

 

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.

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