Silence is a predator’s best friend
Last week, the New York Times reported that Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood movie mogul and frequent contributor to liberal causes, had sexually harassed women for years. The Times shared the accounts of victims, from temporary employees to actress Ashley Judd, who recounted in disturbing detail how Weinstein abused his position of power to harm women.
While many Democrats have donated the amount of Harvey Weinstein’s political donations to charities such as RAINN, others have remained silent about his abhorrent, indefensible actions. Perhaps the most prominent Democrat to remain silent on the matter is Weinstein’s friend and recipient of political donations, Hillary Clinton. It is time for her to join the ranks of other Democrats and speak out against Harvey Weinstein.
A sexual predator’s best friend is silence. Predators rarely disclose their misdeeds. Instead, they position themselves as upstanding members of their community. If they fear victims will disclose, predators preemptively impugn their character, undermine their credibility, and make unflattering judgments about their mental health. Perpetrators use their power and false narrative to create a prison of silence for their victims who fear further retaliation and even revictimization through the reporting process and potential media coverage. When the perpetrator is an employer, victims are forced to choose between their careers and an often futile attempt at justice. In the case of Weinstein, some victims did speak up, but were subsequently silenced through non-disclosure agreements related to the settlements their predator doled out.
Perhaps most troubling, Weinstein was able to count on the protective silence of those closest to him. Many sources — from the New York Times to Vanity Fair — have reported that Weinstein’s misconduct was “the worst-kept secret” in Hollywood and New York. If it is true this was the “worst-kept secret” in Hollywood and New York, many of these associates were complicit in his misdeeds, failing to report his acts of sexual harassment. Weinstein thrived in a community that accepted his deviance.
There is a more subtle way, however, that predators use their circle of friends and community for support beyond choosing close associates who turn a blind eye to their horrific deeds. It is not unusual for sexual predators to coopt their friends, coworkers, communities, and — in the case of celebrities — other famous people as part of their cover story. When this happens, victims are up against both the perpetrator and the entire community groomed to be his character reference. Weinstein played this game well. He cultivated relationships with Hillary Clinton and other powerful Democrats for years through his donations, support, and even friendship. Even Michelle Obama called him a “wonderful person and good friend” according to CNN.
Making matters worse, in the wake of this scandal too many pundits have politicized Weinstein’s misconduct. Monday evening on CNN, political commentator Maria Cardona said in response to a question about Hillary Clinton’s silence on Harvey Weinstein, “Democrats did not elect a sexual predator to be in the White House.” It was wrong for Republicans to respond to reports of Trump’s acts of sexual assault with the tired refrain “What about Bill Clinton?” Today, it is equally wrong for Democrats to invoke Donald Trump when dodging criticism about Harvey Weinstein. Politicizing sexual assault and sexual harassment render victims pawns in political debate instead of people who deserve both compassion, justice, and, frankly, a chance to live in a world that is more comfortable for them than it is for their perpetrators.
Especially since Democrats position themselves as advocates of women, they must consistently condemn all instances of sexual harassment and other acts of sexual violence. It does not matter if the perpetrator is a Republican or a Democrat. Everyone should be able to agree that it is abhorrent for any person — male or female, Democrat or Republican — to abuse a position of power in the way that Harvey Weinstein did.
It is time to break the cycle of silence and shame that emboldens perpetrators. Condemnation of perpetrators like Weinstein provides an important counter-narrative to the perpetrator’s propaganda efforts in the media and the community. Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who advised Weinstein, claimed via the New York Times that many of the allegations were “patently false.” She also made excuses for Weinstein’s behavior, saying that he was “an old dinosaur learning new ways.” Condemnation affirms that this type of crime is both unacceptable and abhorrent; it is not a mistake or lapse in judgment, rather a life-ruining act that degrades another human being.
Condemnation of the perpetrator also provides comfort to the victim. Oftentimes, victims of sexual crimes remain nameless, suffering alone and in silence. When they do come forward, they are often re-victimized by the perpetrator’s allies. We stand in solidarity with the perpetrator when we remain silent. We stand in solidarity with victims when we speak out against their perpetrators’ misdeeds.
It is time for Hillary Clinton to stand with victims.