They are angry.
Their lives have been interrupted and their careers halted. The people who used to hang on their every word are gone. The corner table at their favorite spot is now reserved for someone else, and almost no one wants their autograph.
Film mogul Harvey Weinstein, now facing trial for rape and other sex crimes, watched the company he and his brother built crumble to ash and his status as a Hollywood powerbroker evaporate overnight. Comedian Louis C.K. found the welcome mat for his movies and TV shows rolled up and tossed in a broom closet. His comeback performance at Comedy Cellar in New York, just nine months after admitting to sexual misconduct, was largely derided as too soon and with too little contrition. C.K., who enjoyed masturbating in front of producers, actresses, and seemingly any other woman he could corner in a dressing room, initially said it “was o.k. because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first.”
Bill Cosby, a man who helped reshape American television, is reportedly furious that he has been indicted, convicted, and sentenced to jail time for his crimes against one woman. With more than 60 other alleged victims, many of whom say he drugged and raped them, Cosby may well live out the remainder of his days in a Pennsylvania correctional facility. The 81-year-old grandfather’s bail was revoked and he was immediately taken into custody once his sentence of three to 10 years in a state prison was handed down. A man whose career reaches back beyond my 50 years on this planet is now classified as a “sexually violent predator.”
Brett Kavanaugh is peeved that his smooth road to the Supreme Court is now sullied with allegations of sexual assault and harassment dating back to his senior year at an elite D.C.-area prep school. The D.C. circuit court judge, who will reportedly offer his daily calendars from the early 1980s to the Senate Judicial Committee to prove his innocence, swears he never attended a party like the one where Dr. Christine Blasey Ford described him turning up the stereo and placing his hand over her mouth as he groped her.
When a second woman emerged with details of a party at Yale where she says Kavanaugh exposed himself, Deborah Ramirez was called “totally inebriated and all messed up,” by President Donald Trump.
Let that sink in. Now tell me who would want to run the risk of public ridicule by perfect strangers and a sitting president of the United States? Tell me who would want to have her name and face splashed across the front page of The New York Times or be the lead story on every CNN show? The Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee hired a prosecutor to interrogate Ford, as if she is on trial. They chose a woman to avoid the imagery of 10 old white men asking deeply personal questions of a female accuser.
Kavanaugh, for his part, made a feeble attempt to explain away a shameful term he and others used in their high school yearbook to demean and marginalize yet another teenage girl. “Renate Alumni” was a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school, who unwittingly signed a letter supporting his nomination. The term, used by several senior boys, undoubtedly connotes that each of them had a sexual relationship with her—which turned out to be a lie. Still, they used Schroeder, whose last name is now Dolphin and who, unaware of the coded insults, had signed a letter in support of Kavanaugh, as their personal billboard of misogyny and bravado.
For some Republicans, it simply does not matter if the allegations against Kavanaugh are true. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, angry and dismissive of the accusers, has scheduled a vote on the nomination for Friday—one day after Ford and Kavanaugh will testify. This despite the promise of Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti that another woman will come forward this week.
However angry the accused may be, the people who suffered here are the accusers, who weren’t punished years or decades later but began paying the moment each one was allegedly assaulted.
That Cosby was denied bail and taken immediately into custody Thursday was remarkable. Most offenders are never brought to justice, even when a victim immediately reports. More often, there is no 911 call or criminal complaint. According to RAINN, 690 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement. Fear of retaliation is the leading reason why victims stay silent.
Sexual assaults are both physical and mental. While the perpetrator is a celebrity, a politician, or some other high-profile person, the victim is often someone who would destroy their own career simply by speaking of what had happened. Lost jobs, missed opportunities, and broken relationships are just some of the vestiges of rape and assault, along with post-traumatic stress disorder and attempted suicide for too many survivors. Those costs compound and never pay interest. There is no beneficiary.
My own mother waited 50 years before she uttered a word. For me, it was three decades.
The rise of the #MeToo movement has had real consequences for some of the most powerful men in entertainment and politics—once bastions of male dominance where hyper-masculinity could run amok. While that landscape has not changed altogether, more women—and some men— who have been subjected to sexual violence and harassment have come forward.
That’s no small thing. The fact is sexual assault is under-reported in this country because the legal system is rigged against victims. Most do not believe that they will be believed. It is a system that wonders what the victim was wearing, how much they had to drink, or anything else that would make the victim culpable for their own assault.
All too often, victims are told that reporting the crime would be inopportune for the criminal. When survivors are subjected to the kind of vile harassment and death threats that Ford and too many other women, myself among them, have endured, it makes stepping out of the shadows more unlikely for others.
Ford might have taken her pain to the grave. The 60 women who accused Cosby of drugging and raping them could have remained silent. Rosanna Arquette, Terry Crews, Emma de Caunes, and Rose McGowan stood up when they could have kept their seats.
If anybody should be angry, it is us.