Like an earthquake would, sexual assault allegations brought against Hollywood Harvey Weinstein in October had ground-shaking effects and sparked a tsunami that would sweep away other giants in just a few weeks. The Weinstein scandal—still under investigation—has multiplied.
On Thursday, Time listed over 30 American public figures accused of sexual misconduct after Weinstein. They included Hollywood sweethearts and pubic figures. Their exposure caused enormous public controversy over the past weeks.
While the epidemic of 2017 is the largest in US history, winter has usually brought to the country similar eruptions of sexual misconduct: current President Donald Trump in October 2016.
The Huffington Post grouped the published accounts of 15 women accusing Trump of grabbing, kissing them on the lips, reaching into skirts, among other acts against their will. His former wife, Ivana, had also accused him of rape as revealed in the book “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump”.
Trump’s response included denials, threats to sue publishers of such stories, and reverse the accusation in the case of Jill Harth, who first sued him before dropping the lawsuit, saying she had been after him.
However, during his presidential elections, Trump had to face The Washington Post publishing a 2005 video it obtained from the backstage of his appearance on “Days of our Lives”, where he bragged about forcing himself on women and being able to get whatever he wanted for being a celebrity, including “grabbing them by the [vagina]”.
Newsweek described the video as “packed with vulgar, sexist, and curse-laden language that some expected it to derail Trump’s run for the White House.” Trump issued a video apology.
Before that, it was Bill Cosby, who drugged and sexually abused women, but it was in November 2014 that the case had big public echo, after comedian Hannibal Buress alleged that Cosby was a rapist, during a show reviving accusations to which the latter responded, “I don’t talk about it.”
Talk or not, Cosby faced a criminal charge case by the following year and there were more civilian lawsuits against him and more women coming forward. The case he was tried for was former athlete Andrea Constand accusing Cosby of rape after drugging her.
Despite that, the rape case ended in mistrial in June 2017, the once African-American icon suffered damage in his reputation and career.
A common factor in all those alleged sexual offenders’ cases is that they had multiple victims. Although alleged perpetrators deny it now and then, in 2017, their exposure initiated faster, wider-scale denouncement and action.
There were repercussions outside the US too. Shortly after the Weinstein event, the #MeToo hashtag went viral by successfully bringing together victims of sexual assaults and encouraging many to expose their attackers. It went on for several days on a global level.
The Weinstein slope
It started in early October when The New York Times published testimonies on Weinstein’s inappropriate behaviour, but also that many women who worked with him said they never experienced sexual harassment.
“An investigation by the NYT found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees, and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein company,” it said on 5 October.
“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologise for it,” was Weinstein’s first statement.
The Weinstein Company also dismissed him from its board, and he was suspended from the British Film Academy.
On 11 October, Reuters reported that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the Oscars, was going to hold “a special meeting” to discuss allegations against Weinstein.
The Academy had already described the allegations in a statement as “repugnant, abhorrent, and antithetical to the high standards of the Academy and the creative community it represents.”
Three days later, the board of the Academy voted to expel him by two-thirds majority. The Academy said Weinstein “does not merit the respect of his colleagues” and that by dismissing him they wanted to send a message that “the era of wilful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behaviour and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”
Weinstein was suspended from the British Film Academy, in light of “recent very serious allegations,” they said in a statement. He now faces possible legal indictment.
Weinstein spokesperson Sallie Hofmeister released a statement that denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex or that Weinstein had ever done any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.” The statement added that Weinstein, who wouldn’t be available for comments, was “taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling, and on rebuilding his life.”
Among dozens of victims and famous names speaking up, there was Ashley Judd—“I thought no meant no”
One of the first women who spoke against Harvey Weinstein, Judd stated she had to negotiate her way out of his advances. Judd had to make him a fake promise that she would give in to his non-ending sexual offers when she wins an Oscar.
“I thought no meant no. I fought with this volley of noes, which he ignored,” she said in an interview with Diane Sawyer, she described how she thought about what she did asking herself if it was something to feel guilty about or proud.
Angelina Jolie—warning others from working with Weinstein
One of two big-name actresses who decided to come forward bout Weinstein in October, Jolie sent strong message that women shouldn’t have to endure that.
Jolie told the New York Times she had a “bad experience with Weinstein”, thus choosing not to work with him gin and also warn others from him because “This behaviour towards women in any field in any country is unacceptable.”
Gwyneth Paltrow—warned not to tell
Paltrow reported Weinstein made advances on her, saying that she was “young and petrified,” according to the New York Times. Like Jolie, Paltrow said she rejected his offer for massages in the bedroom. After her boyfriend at the time, actor Brad Bitt, confronted Weinstein, the latter warned her not tell anyone else.
But unlike Jolie, Paltrow continued working with Weinstein until she received her best-actress Oscar award. Today, Paltrow says “this way of treating women ends now.”
Among dozens of powerful well-known alleged offenders, there was…Dustin Hoffman—yet another shock
Hoffmann joining the list of accused came as another shock, especially that the allegation was that he assaulted a 17-year-old girl. According to Hollywood Reporter and writer Anna Graham Hunter, “he was openly flirtatious; he grabbed my ass, and he talked about sex to me and in front of me.”
Hoffman apologised for putting her in an “uncomfortable situation.” There was another allegation against Hoffmann made by a TV producer.
Kevin Spacey—men were victims too
It wasn’t just women reporting sexual assault. Spacey was accused of groping and seducing two men, including filmmaker Tony Montana and actor Anthony Rapp, who said he was subject to Spacey’s sexual advances when he was only 14. According to USA Today, the list of accusers reached 14.
Spacey issued a statement on 30 October saying he was “horrified to hear” Rapp’s story, didn’t remember it and blaming it on alcohol. “I owe him the sincerest apology,” he said.
Ben Affleck—condemns then apologises
Ironically, Affleck had condemned Weinstein’s behaviour, saying he was “saddened and angry”, that the allegations made him “sick” and that it was “completely unacceptable.”
Soon enough, it was Affleck apologising for sexual misconduct, after a video re-emerged on social media where he touched the breasts of TV host Hilarie Burton. This comes as Annamarie Tendler, a makeup artist, also accused him of touching her while at a Golden Globe party in 2014.
“I acted inappropriately toward Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologise,” Affleck tweeted on 11 October.
Beyond the US
French Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, whose grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, came under fire after facing sexual assault accusations. He was accused by female students who told the press that the events took place when they were teenagers. He denied them.
In mid-October, Henda Ayari, president of the Liberators Association exposed Ramadan as aggressor previously unidentified in her 2016 book “I Choose to be Free”. She filed a complaint against him to the prosecutor’s office.
On 1 November, headlines read: “British Defence Minister following sexual harassment allegations.”
Michael Fallon was accused on inappropriate conduct towards a radio presenter “becoming the first UK politician to quit over allegations of sexual misconduct sweeping through the country’s ranks of power,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
A week later, The Guardian reported that there were at least 12 members of Parliament (MPs) named in claims of unwanted sexual behaviour, including Fallon. All of them were men, most of which denied the allegations.
In Egypt, the scale was much narrower. The #MeToo hashtag grabbed attention. However, it resulted only in an anonymous list that was circulated online, included names of not well known lawyers, and activists and had no effect whatsoever.