Woody Allen has been accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow and married his other adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, and has also previously starred in one of his own films, “Manhattan” as a 42 year old man dating a 17 year old girl. Yet, despite these allegations and problematic films, Allen has enjoyed an illustrious career, allowing Allen to continue normalizing relationships between adults and underage girls.
Even with the now reviled Harvey Weinstein, his detailed decades-long history of sexual assault has been described in recent headlines as solely a “sex scandal”. Currently, 93 women have come out saying they were sexually assaulted by Weinstein, 14 accusing him of rape, and yet, by considering it simply a “scandal”, media outlets make light of these women’s traumatic experiences.
By labeling these instances of sexual violence as simply “misconduct” or “scandals”, we trivialize these actions, treating them like minor mistakes or accidents. Avoiding these terms allows news outlets to avoid the severity associated with them.
But to the survivor, using these euphemisms sends a message that people are not willing to believe their experiences, because we refuse to address these incidents with the gravity they deserve.
I acknowledge it can be difficult to label something statutory rape or sexual assault, especially when we’re not totally sure if it happened. But ignoring an issue doesn’t make it goes away, it just ensures we don’t address it.
So call these acts by their names. Harvey Weinstein has been accused of rape and sexual assault. Woody Allen’s new film may include scenes of statutory rape. Kevin Spacey has been accused of attempted sexual assault. The first step to preventing sexual violence is acknowledge it exists, without belittling or minimizing the serious claims that survivors make.