What Happens When Your Perpetrator Isn’t A Hollywood Giant? — Liz Williams
It seems that every week, a new story is being released in the news accusing an A-lister of sexual assault. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K… the list goes on much further.
Although the news has been recently exposing sexual assault cases, sexual assault is nothing new.
Welcome to the hell of being a woman.
But what happens for the women who don’t have news media on their side? While it is great that the news is giving a voice to the victims in these cases, the only reason they’re getting coverage is because of their A-list perpetrators. If a woman went to the news to tell her story of being sexually assaulted by a person who didn’t carry a recognizable name, would she still be given the same media coverage? My suspicion is that she wouldn’t receive any media coverage.
On the surface, the information that we’re seeing in the headlines seems to be empowering to women and the victim. These once “untouchable giants” are being held responsible for their actions– forced to release apology statements, being removed from their positions or even just having their personal lives crumble before them. However, this isn’t necessarily a “powerful time” for sexual assault victims because it isn’t the victim and their story alone that is eliciting the reaction. It’s the status of the perpetrator.
Does one need to be sexually assaulted by a Hollywood tycoon in order to receive the widespread justice that is warranted? What does this say to sexual assault victims: “This is news because we are interested in and care about your perpetrator. Not you.”
Even the (few) stories of sexual assault involving infamous perpetrators are released because of the social status of the perpetrator. Remember when Brock Turner made headlines in 2016 for raping a girl on a college campus while she was unconscious behind a dumpster? What the majority of news stories focused on was the fact that he was a swimmer for a Division I college.
The point is, while this news coverage may be a step in the right direction, it isn’t representative of the whole story. The perpetrator doesn’t need to be a celebrity, a political figure or a D1 swimmer in order for sexual assault to be validated by the media. Sexual assault is sexual assault. Even if the perpetrator is a regular “Joe Schmo” (which, in most cases, it is). These cases deserve just as much recognition as the “big name” stories. Only running stories with recognizable perpetrators takes the focus and importance from the victim and gives it to the “giant.”