Sexual Assault Isn't Unique to Hollywood

Talk about it, make people aware, and don't be afraid to talk.

Sexual Assault Isn't Unique to Hollywood

“I certainly have treated women in a very sexist way. I have bullied women. I have overlooked women. I have underestimated women, not as a rule. From time to time, I have done what a lot of men do.”

Alec Baldwin was recently quoted as having said this in an interview with PBS' Jeffrey Brown regarding the recent — and perhaps unsurprising — revelations that many men in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein and now Kevin Spacey perhaps being the most prominent among these, have put women and some men in compromising positions over the course of years.

It's interesting that Baldwin tries to make a distinction between not diminishing the existence of women in favor of men and elevating the status of men over women. It's a statement with which many might agree, as Baldwin may not be entirely wrong.

"We just innately treat women differently, because men have typically been in charge," Baldwin says. "We — not that we diminish women. We elevate men over women. And I have certainly done that in my life."

Baldwin, a stalwart of Hollywood over the last couple of decades, should be commended for his honesty in discussing his own behavior in Hollywood as far as women are concerned. Certainly, his conduct regarding his marriage to actress Kim Basinger during their time together was well-documented and was no doubt a contributing factor to the acrimonious divorce proceedings that were also well documented.

However, as an increasing number of actors come forward to discuss how women are treated and as an increasing list of names is made of those who allegedly engaged in various acts of sexual misconduct over the years, I have to wonder why we're not seeing an increase in the numbers of people openly talking about sexual assault outside of Hollywood.

Yes, we have seen women — and some men — outside of Hollywood turn around and participate in activist movements such as the #MeToo movement that appeared to wink out of existence fairly quickly. However, there are still plenty of men and women who are coming forward with tales of sexual assault and harassment that are simply not being taken seriously.

Only 23 percent of reported sexual assaults in 2011-2012 resulted in a guilty verdict in Canada, and in reality, there are far too many that are reported but never make it all the way to trial. It's a certainty that much of the same could probably be seen in the United States, which leaves a good many victims of sexual assault feeling as though there's no point to reporting as very little is actually done — or at least, it seems as much.

According to Global News, and citing an Ipsos-Reid survey, 71 percent of those who reported the sexual assault to the police viewed the experience as negative while 22 percent viewed reporting as positive. There was also a tie between feeling "abandoned" and "devastated" at 39 percent each after reporting.

We absolutely must continue talking about sexual assault and harassment. We must listen to anyone coming forward with allegations of sexual assault and harassment; it's not just a Hollywood problem — it's one that everyone in society is facing, and until we start listening and believing what people are coming forward with without suggesting some sort of blame or responsibility, there will continue to be those who deny responsibility for their own sexually predatory behavior.

This is not behavior unique to Hollywood. It's criminal, and it's not about one person having "needs" that must absolutely be met and the other party must simply cave and allow the sexual assault to occur. It's not acceptable, and we need to talk about it so that it's not a taboo topic that anyone is afraid to discuss. We need to shed more light and support the victims — and ensure that those who commit sexual assault are convicted, with sentences that fit the crime regardless of where they live or work.

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Christina St-Jean

I'm a high school English and French teacher who trains in the martial arts and works towards continuous self-improvement.

See all posts by Christina St-Jean