The so-called 'tipping point' for sexual harassment has come and gone, and nothing's really changed

The best a victim can hope for is that her accuser is shamed in the media for a few days and loses a job or two before everything goes back to normal

Annie Corcoran
Sunday 03 December 2017 14:22
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If Weinstein isn’t charged for his alleged crimes, it’ll prove nothing's really changed
If Weinstein isn’t charged for his alleged crimes, it’ll prove nothing's really changed

The news that the criminal case against Harvey Weinstein has apparently stalled did not surprise me. According to the victim’s lawyer, prosecutors might not be moving forward to charge Weinstein with rape despite the evidence.

The fact that the law seems to be on the side of the accused rather than the victim should come as no surprise – is just yet another example of the ongoing pattern in society whereby powerful men seemingly never face the consequences of their actions towards women.

Since the Weinstein accusations first came to light, there seems to be a sense of a “dam bursting”, the idea that we might might have reached a tipping point regarding sexual abuse and harassment as more and more people speak up about their experiences, and rich powerful men are being held accountable.

Unfortunately though, despite all the talk, nothing seems to be getting done to bring about change and a lot of the perpetrators appear to have escaped any real ramifications for their actions.

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This is not new. For years, men accused of sexual misconduct have been allowed to continue to work – and achieve high levels of prestige in creative industries. Roman Polanski and Woody Allen have spent decades making incredibly successful movies despite the crimes they are accused of.

More recently, Johnny Depp has been hired as one of the leading actors in the five-part trilogy Fantastic Beasts, despite allegations last year of physical and psychological abuse by his former wife Amber Heard.

Despite the backlash from users on social media platforms, the director of the film, David Yates, defended Depp in a recent interview, saying: “Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.” Depp’s continued employment in such a high-profile project again suggests nothing significant has changed. Especially when those in power make excuses for him.

Many of those accused of harassment or worse have been able to wait it out hoping that they will be forgotten as media coverage dwindles – and on the whole they’ve been right. Here in the UK, the allegations of sexual misconduct in Westminster were treated as a pivotal moment, with people calling for resignations and fundamental changes to be made to Westminster to make it a safe work environment.

But as ever, the momentum quickly faded and the story all but disappeared behind other scandals. Once again those with power were protected from having to take any responsibility for their behaviour.

This doesn’t appear to be improving either. With people growing increasingly uncomfortable with the impact that the scandal may have on them, support for victims who come forward is dwindling. Even Lena Dunham – a strident feminist – chose to publicly defend her male co-worker when he was accused of sexual assault, promoting the narrative that women lie about being victims of this kind of behaviour and that we should question their stories. She has since backtracked, but the fact remains that her instinct was to side with the powerful man accused.

It has become increasingly clear that those with the power, whether it be in Hollywood, Westminster or in everyday life, are unwilling to make changes that they believe will negatively impact them.

Alleged perpetrators of sexual assault are able to continue to live their lives without facing any criminal consequences.

Those at the top need to readdress the balance of power and create an environment which not only condemns sexual assault but also seeks justice for the victims. The best a victim can hope for is that her accuser is shamed in the media for a few days and loses a job or two before everything goes back to normal. And that’s just not good enough.

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