Hollywood sex-abuse tsunami a new twist on a very old plot

By Gail Lethbridge
December 30, 2017

Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Oscars in Los Angeles in 2014. In the wake of sexual harassment and abuse allegations against Weinstein, many in Hollywood are calling for sweeping changes to the entertainment industry to prevent the mistreatment of women.

The biggest surprise of 2017 was that anyone was surprised.

Never, it seems, have there been more pearls clutched, more sharp breath intakes, more heads shaken in disgust, as one Hollywood mogul after another went down in the wake of sexual assault allegations.

I’m not questioning the rightness of this. Of course it’s right that people are being held accountable for their actions.

But what perplexes me is that anyone should be surprised by the fact that powerful men in show business (or any other business, for that matter) would use their positions to get their way with less powerful people.

Has it not always been thus? And have we not all known that it has always been thus? Why the shock?

It’s 2017, for heaven’s sake. Shouldn’t we be post-shock?

The #metoo movement is a powerful statement that we should not be surprised. It showed us that a lot of other women (and some men) have been subjected to inappropriate sexual overtures, lewd behaviour and assaults in the workplace and beyond.

And it’s been going on for years — decades.

But we are shocked when famous people like Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein are revealed to be one of these predators. Maybe it’s because they are names and faces we know, and some of the victims are also familiar to us.

It’s easier not to be shocked when the names and faces of victims or perpetrators are unknown to us.

We’ve all known the fun-loving “Hands Herman” type of character who would show up at parties and fondle bits of women’s anatomy with abandon.

Of course it was uncomfortable and inappropriate, but we just put up with it because what else were you supposed to do? Everyone loved Herman. Why would anyone want to ruin the fun?


The Hollywood story has been played out before. Remember the Roman Catholic Church and the stories of priests and Jesuit brothers who used their power to abuse altar boys or students?

It’s the exact same story — only the villains in that drama wore robes and hid behind the trust and faith of God-fearing people. Many of those victims were too vulnerable, powerless and afraid to report the sexual abuse for fear of retribution.

And if they did report the abuse, they were either not believed or the crimes were covered up by church authorities who moved the perpetrator to another parish and swept the crime under the carpet.

Sound familiar?

Anyone who thinks it’s weird that a woman didn’t report an incident of sexual abuse need only look at the Catholic Church and connect the dots. Like the altar boys, that woman knew she wouldn’t be believed — or worse, punished if she spoke out.

Just ask Anita Hill who raised concerns about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in the 1990s and had her entire legal career sabotaged as a result.

And anyone who wonders how these powerful men can carry on abusing for years and decades while everyone apparently knows should also look at the Catholic Church to learn how this happens.

The powerful guilty are protected and the vulnerable victims are humiliated. Some justice.

We have seen this in sports as well. Take hockey, Canada’s sport. Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy came forward with allegations against their junior coach, Graham James. The former Hockey News “Man of the Year” is now a convicted sex offender.

And gymnastics. Those young athletes are so vulnerable and beholden to the power of those coaches who are directing their lives and futures. And those coaches turn around and have their way with these kids.

It’s appalling, but it’s not shocking or new.

The protest against sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour picked up momentum in 2017 in a way we have not witnessed before.

I hope that wave carries over into 2018 and that those who do not enjoy the benefits of fame have their moment of justice.


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