TW: This article discusses themes of sexual assault.
It seems like we can’t go a month without sexual assault allegations about someone famous coming to light. Within the last three weeks, this has come in the form of comedian, Russell Brand, who has been accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse over the period where he was at the peak of his fame. Four women are alleging sexual assaults between 2006 and 2013. Despite Brand refuting them, there is supposedly a lot of evidence to suggest that many of these events did in fact take place.
When allegations like this are first made, it opens up many a can of worms. Notably, the celebrity’s reputation is immediately tainted, before it is even discovered whether the allegations are true. Also, it opens up the opportunity to troll the alleged victim via social media and at an already distressing time, this inevitable exposure in the media is an initial contributor to the reason they stay silent for so many years. Finally, as soon as one allegation is made, many other victims feel more confident in coming forward and expressing their maltreatment. The idea of “safety in numbers” rings true with situations like this.
The entertainment industry is known for being largely inaccessible for female voices to speak out about sexual harassment and assault. This imbalance largely came to the fore with the #MeToo movement in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. Despite being founded in 2006, it takes large scale allegations like these for the movement to gain traction.
The entertainment industry is known for being largely inaccessible for female voices to speak out about sexual harassment and assault.
Undoubtedly, a big part of the problem is victim blaming. Of course, it’s true that everyone is innocent until proven guilty but directly negating the experiences of a victim suppresses future voices being heard on the same topic. It feels fruitless to talk about trauma when you know that you will not be believed. Victim blaming comes under the idea of rape culture, whereby our society minimises the severity of sexual violence claims and perpetuates the beliefs that contribute towards this nonchalance.
It feels fruitless to talk about trauma when you know that you will not be believed
These themes are particularly prevalent in the entertainment industry but have also been brought to light in much more obscure places, such as the royal family.
It makes us question whether sexual violence against women (and indeed men too) is even taken seriously among celebrities because it feels all too easy for these perpetrators to be bailed out of their wrongdoings and as the general public, we see countless abusers slip under the rug out of the spotlight because they have the money to silence the media.
The attitude towards female victims of sexual violence in the entertainment industry is far from being a Russell Brand issue. The stress and potential bullying that victims have to face when coming forward about how they’ve been treated can hardly feel worth it when it’s easy for the perpetrator to avoid the repercussions of their actions. It’s extremely brave to come forward about such events when they are cognisant that it is unlikely to work in their favour, so that they can reach justice.