The world has just learned what many in Hollywood knew for years - that another powerful, well-connected man abused his position to manipulate or forcibly get young women to perform sexual acts against their will. Weinstein allegedly harassed and assaulted numerous women who were newbies in their careers, excited about their possibilities…women who were vulnerable and who ultimately discovered that the childhood story of the big bad wolf was real…” a cunning and threatening menace,” seemingly a perfect description of the alleged and admitted behavior of Harvey Weinstein.
We now know, some of the women fought back and won settlements from the company that bore his name, some fought back and were ostracized professionally and others stayed silent out of fear that their careers would be wrecked right out of the gate.
Weinstein’s behavior was vile and unbecoming of a man who was the leader of companies with tremendous gravitas (Miramax and The Weinstein Company) – companies that could make or break careers in the field of entertainment. He was a predator who managed to shame and traumatize his young victims into years of silence.
And while these courageous women are silent no more, I thought about the lessons we should pass on to teen girls who are presently dreaming of the careers they one day may have.
1. Don’t ever let ANYONE (teachers, school administrators, coaches, clergy, bosses…just to name a few) sexually harass or abuse you. Sexual harassment as defined by the United States government includes unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Simply put – it is not okay for anyone to force you to engage in a sexual act or place you a position where you believe you must have sex or engage in any type of sexual act against your will.
2. You must believe that you can speak truth to power! You must not let the abuser shame you into silence. Tell somebody PLEASE. Keeping silent will increase your feelings of worthlessness and shame. Tell somebody who will not only hear you but act on your behalf. Abuse and harassment is not glamourous, it is not normal, and it is unacceptable on any level.
3. If someone tries to sexually harass you, remember they (the harasser) have the problem not you. Those who abuse will always try to make you feel that you are the problem, that it’s all your fault and that you are less than. But it’s simply not true. If you give into the harasser’s demand in hopes of making it stop, you will end up hurting the only person that matters in this scenario and that’s you. Remember – you matter - always!
4. There will be other opportunities for you. No one person holds the keys to your future. There are good people, mentors who will help you attain your dreams and if their intentions are pure, sex will never be a part of the equation.
5. All money is not good money. My deceased grandmother told me this years ago and even though we at times abhor cliché’s, it’s remains true today. No matter the opportunity or the money you stand to make, there are many, many things that are more important than the almighty dollar…dignity…self-respect…love.
6. If a situation does not feel right in your gut…run like the wind. Trust your instincts. If it does not feel right then it probably isn’t right. Be willing to walk away from a bad opportunity. Don’t get caught up in wanting something so bad that you disregard those values that are most precious and meaningful to you.
7. And finally, ask yourself what price are you willing to pay to have this job, this opportunity. You are the most precious commodity you will ever have. You are worthy of respect and honor. You do not have to sacrifice your dignity, and most importantly your body to get a job. The greatest thing you can do for yourself is to love and respect yourself for who you are. You always have the power to say no. Never forget that. You have the choice to define yourself.