Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, George H.W. Bush and so many more are men who have been accused of sexual assault.
What do these men have in common? They are all considered to hold great wealth and power.
Wealthy people can finesse the system by using great sums of money to create settlements with victims. They are basically buying their silence.
Non-Disclosure Agreements and other legal documents of the sort are given to survivors to sign, along with “hush money.” This ensures that the victims are legally bound to keep quiet and not speak openly about the unwanted sexual advances.
Recently, the aforementioned men have had their reputations destroyed by accusations of inappropriate behavior towards both women and men, and there have even been allegations by persons who were under-aged at the time of the assault.
Despite numerous allegations, none of these men have been convicted on charges of sexual assault.
Ericka Still, a freshman pre-physical therapy student, feels that men who hold a lot of power get away with sexual assault because of their financial stability. She also feels that this is one of the reason victims do not speak out.
“Women probably don’t report because they are fearful for their lives and the possible aftermath of their statements.”
Following the heavily publicized reports against Weinstein, an increasing number of ladies have opened up about their traumatic experiences with him.
The vast majority of these encounters began with coercion, which is the use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance.
According to The New York Times, Paz de la Huerta was coerced by Weinstein to let him into her apartment, where he forced himself onto her on more than one occasion.
Weinstein, like many other alleged assailants, often use tactics of fear as well as persuasion to keep their accusers silent. Phrases such as, “It’s my word against yours, who do you think people will believe?” are not uncommon in situations such as this.
According to Cosmopolitan, 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-24 admit to experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, and 38 percent of these women claim the harassment came from their male managers.
Carrie Gavin, the FAMU’s Equal Opportunities Program Director, says women remain silent about assault because often times it can negatively impact their professions.
“We see how people victim blame. Powerful people are allowed to get away with sexual assault because they can, and will, harm the careers of the complainant.”
Gavin also wants to make sure that the support of those sexually abused or harassed isn’t just a current trend.
“People are outraged with the numbers and the volume of accusers. If we don’t stay vigilant than a year or two from now if one female is coming forth she will be dismissed.”
Sadly, CEO’s of companies and A-list actors and producers aren’t the only powerful figures being accused of sexual harassment. This abuse has even infiltrated our religious institutions, which are supposed to be safe havens for believers.
It is no secret that religious leaders who are well known, respected, and loved in our communities have been accused of harassment and assault as well, and very little is being done about it.
According to the Ledger-Enquirer, Lequita Jackson said that Neighborhood Minister Lewis Clemons sexually abused her for years beginning in 2002 when she was 15. She only recently left the church a month ago.
Jackson stated that Clemons forced her into “inappropriate sexual contact”, and that he utilized his position in the congregation to influence her.
Despite Jackson’s claims, Clemons currently serves as apostle and senior pastor at Kingdom Mindfulness Services.
It is widely unknown that if it weren’t for Anita Hill, many women wouldn’t feel have the courage to speak out against their assailants as they do now.
Anita Hill is a black female lawyer who took her harassment case against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas public in October 1991. In doing so, she encouraged many others to break their silence about the abuse they had faced.
“After approximately 3 months of working there he asked me to go out socially with him. What happened then, and telling the world about it, are the two most difficult things I’ve experienced in my life. Only after a great deal of agonizing thoughts and a great number of sleepless nights am I able to talk about this unpleasant manner with anyone but my closest friend,” said Hill.
Although Hill’s trailblazing case finally evoked a very necessary nationwide conversation on assault, Thomas was still appointed to the Supreme Court only four days after her testimony.
Despite the many fears that victims have about exposing their assailants, Hill’s bravery in the face of adversity shows survivors that they are not alone.
Men who abuse their power and take advantage of other people’s bodies shouldn’t be able to reconstruct their lives, reputations, or careers with a simple payment, or by defamation of the victim.
“To those who have been or are being taken advantage of, in any aspect, follow in the footsteps of Anita Hill. Don’t allow fear to put you into hiding and don’t let “hush money” force you into silence. No amount of money can buy your voice.