Harvey Weinstein's silver lining - no one is invincible
Although the sexual abuse and exploitation that has been brought to light by Harvey Weinstein is disgusting, it also has a silver lining in that women and girls are speaking out about the sexual abuse they've encountered. The exposure also shows that these men who are in positions of power exploiting those who trust them are not invincible - the truth will come out eventually. While it does happen at the 'top', it's important to note that this takes place all the way down the chain from Hollywood casting couches to our everyday lives. I don't think there is a woman reading this who hasn't been inappropriately touched, spoken to or been made to feel uncomfortable by a man in a position of power, whether that is your boss or a man on the tube.
When I was 15 years old, I was in the Harvard Club in New York with my mum when an old, overweight man came up to me and told me I would be perfect for a movie he was filming. His name was James Toback, and he happily chatted with my mum and told her how great I would be. I was living in Cyprus at the time and he was discussing flying me over to London where it was filming. He told me about his films with Robert Downey Jr and Mike Tyson. He gave me his phone number and I went back to Cyprus full of excitement until I googled him a bit further and read that it was a common pick up line of his on girls to offer to put them in a movie. He was targeting literal children and yet he works today with stars like Sienna Miller. I just left it at that and didn't respond to him again, but when I think about how many girls must have been taken in by that line it makes me feel sick.
Unfortunately as women we are very vulnerable to all different kinds of people in all different kinds of ways. I suppose it is more prominent in industries such as acting and modelling as there isn't a standard career path, models are often 'discovered' by a photographer and actors often shoot to fame after being cast in a big production. Exploitation is rife in all different sorts of ways in these industries and it's very easy for people in positions of power to take advantage of those beneath them. I have experienced famous, very well respected photographers speak to me in an inappropriate sexual manner down to unknown photographers trying to get me to take my clothes off and treating me with contempt if I said no.
As models we are often sent to random men's houses for 'test shoots' and are in very dangerous positions. We are expected to change in public and be completely fine with even being photographed changing during fashion week. We turn up to shoots not knowing what to expect and it is extremely difficult to find the strength to say no when faced with the prospect of being labelled 'unprofessional'. I had a 'test' shoot (i.e free) where I was asked to dress up in lingerie and spank another female model with a ping pong bat where I tried to say no and was pressured by everyone there to just 'hide my face with my hair'. On one of my first shoots for iD magazine I was asked to kiss another male model which I said no to and was made to feel like I was somehow being unprofessional and causing everyone a problem.
It is so important to make sure you have a good agent if you are a model or actress, who you can trust to always be on your side and not pressure you into doing anything you are uncomfortable with. We need to know that saying no is okay and we are as much a part of the professional team as is anyone else.
But it is vital to recognise that even if you aren't a model or actress you can also be sexually abused and it is so important to know that you can talk about it and be taken seriously. Abuse can come from anyone to anyone. I have been harassed online almost every single day for the past year by someone who was very close to me who has only stopped now that I decided to go to the police.
I experience sexual violation every day from strangers on the streets shouting at me to a casual graze on the tube. If I ever share any of these experiences with friends, EVERY SINGLE ONE of them have had a similar experience. It makes me so incredibly angry that we let these men (and women, I am sure it goes both ways) get away with exploiting and abusing us because of the simple fact we usually 'feel bad' or 'don't want to make a fuss' or think no one will listen.
No one has the right to touch you without your consent. No one has the right to harass you, and upset you no matter what the past is. No one has the right to ask you to do anything you don't want to do and it is so important that we speak out about it because that is how it will end. I am sure that the many men and women in power who have been abusing their positions are very worried right now, because they know something has shifted and these women are being taken seriously. As we all should be.
As for Weinstein, he can check himself into all the £37,000 per month 'sex rehab' clinics he wants, but he has proved that no matter how much 'power' someone wields, they are not invincible. Whether he goes to prison or not, the women who have spoken out against him have lifted the lid on sexual exploitation within the industry, of which I am sure this is just the beginning.