Sexual abuse needs to end now

Whether it be in Hollywood or to your closest friend, sexual abuse happens daily

While I was away in Ottawa this past reading week visiting my friends, I, like many, read the news about Harvey Weinstein.

If you don’t know who Harvey Weinstein is, he’s the co-founder of the film studio The Weinstein Company, alongside his brother Bob Weinstein. His name is everywhere in the news now because of an article by The New York Times, “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” This article began a slew of reactions from celebrities, activists, and people I know closely. Many offered their support to the women Weinstein violated, and many began to reveal more horrific stories of Weinstein’s sexual abuse. Men and women alike began to tell their personal sexual harassment stories, including people I know.

Reading about this news made me ache—it upset me and hurt me. However, this news about Weinstein didn’t surprise me. Was I appalled and disgusted at the fact that this is happening? Of course. But it didn’t surprise me because yet again, here we are, reading about a man who has  all the power and money—who uses their position in their profession to abuse those vulnerable to him in such a disgusting and demeaning manner.

Reading the article, there was one common theme that stuck with me—the women he abused were mostly women who were at the beginning of their careers. What makes this worse is that this had been ongoing for many years and still it took this long to finally get the story out. Why does this only matter now?

Emma Thompson, a famous British actress, made a very important point on BBC2’s Newsnight when she said: “Does it only count if you have done it to loads and loads of women, or does it count if you have done it to one woman, once. I think the latter.” This seems to be the trend, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t be considered a problem once it has become a reoccurring situation. It’s a problem the minute it happens the first time.

It’s ridiculous that it has taken this long to finally bring down a man who uses his power and authority as a powerful executive in Hollywood to appease his own sexual desires, while his victims suffer life-long consequences. It upsets me. Though this may seem as if it’s a Hollywood problem, this also is a problem right here at home.

Women and men close to all of us are subjected to individuals who believe that behavior like Weinstein’s is acceptable toward others. Well guess what? It isn’t.

This past weekend in Ottawa, I walked around the market late at night with a good friend of mine. Men walked past us and they openly checked her out with absolutely no shame. She even told me a few stories of men walking by her and making some comment about her appearance in a sexually explicit manner.

Enough is enough. There are far too many people I know, and people everywhere, who are subjected to this behaviour and it needs to stop. Sexual assault of any kind, whether it be verbal, mental, or physical, is unacceptable and needs to be fought against. This kind of behaviour needs to be spoken about more publicly.

Like I said, I’m not surprised about Weinstein’s story, I’m more appalled at the fact that it took this long for it to be discussed and brought to light. We’ve gotten to a point in our lives where disgusting sexual behaviour such as Weinstein’s is so commonplace that women and men must create defense mechanisms for themselves ,or believe it as normal and don’t know what else to do. This is not okay. It should not be considered “normal” behaviour at all.

Normalizing this behaviour will only further allow it to continue, and it is time that we stand up to those who engage in it. Though it may happen constantly, it shouldn’t.

Sexual abuse is and always has been a problem. Women are suffering because of it, and though it may not seem commonplace, so are men. Every day, there is someone who lives their life knowing that some hot-headed moron decided it would be a good idea to force themselves onto someone else for their own desire, without understanding or being aware of their actions. And this is not okay.

I commend the courage of those victims who brought their stories out. I am with the victims of anyone who is subjugated to sexual abuse. Those who come out about their horrific experiences are not doing it to gain attention. It is their way of ensuring that we are aware of this reoccurring problem. It is important for them to talk about the problem and bring it to light, otherwise they suffer through it on their own when they shouldn’t. If anyone you know has gone through a terrible experience, listen to them, believe them, and be there for them. Being an ear for someone who has gone through this is so much more important to them than you may think. Being there and listening through it is one thing, experiencing it is another. The best you can do is help them and support them.

The normalcy and the consistency of this kind of behaviour in the film industry is appalling. This is an industry that has many individuals, myself included, hoping to work in it and make a difference in it. The film industry is difficult enough for many to make a living off of and sexual abuse embedded within the industry is not acceptable.

Weinstein’s case is one of many sexual abuse cases that happens everywhere all the time. One man with a lot of power abuses his position in society to ruin the lives of his victims. What we can learn about this is that it’s time for men and women to speak  up against this. This cannot continue and we need to stand up to these predators.

When a victim reveals their story, it is important that they are not shunned or forgotten about. The reason these stories of sexual abuse with the Weinstein case took so long to be considered a problem was because the victims were young and vulnerable. Who would believe their word over his? The power dynamic is present and we need to be aware that no matter who it is, anyone in any position in life will have consequences for their inappropriate actions, even those as rich and powerful as Weinstein.

It’s time we stop allowing this kind of behaviour to be normalized in our communities. If it can happen to someone so rich and powerful, then it is definitely happening around you. Don’t let it happen. Stand up to it and support those who are experiencing it.

Educate yourself and others about this problem and do what you can to stop it.

It’s time for us to listen, believe, and support the victims.

Quite frankly, I am sick and tired of sexual abuse.

 

YOURS,
MAHMOUD SAROUJI