ABOVE PHOTO: Usher and Harvey Weinstein arrives to the Walk of Fame honors Usher on September 07, 2016 in Hollywood, CA.
By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The New York Times was deep on the late freight when it broke the story that big shot movie mogul and Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein had a long history of reportedly sexually harassing, abusing and victimizing women. Weinstein got away with the alleged sexual abuse that reportedly spanned three decades for a good reason, in fact, several good reasons. He is super rich, powerful and had tentacles into every nook and cranny of Hollywood film, art and culture. Along the way, he made a lot of careers for a slew of big name actors, actresses, directors, writers and others in the film industry. They owed him, and they owed him a lot. This bought a lot of silence. Silence, yes, because many of them admitted that they had heard the rumors, knew the victims or were victims themselves of Weinstein’s sexual rapacity.
It was again the classic case of see no evil, hear no evil and, especially, report no evil. This was the same pattern with Bill Cosby. His alleged rapes, druggings and victimization of women went on for decades, and many heard the stories and had first-hand knowledge of his alleged acts. Many of the victims themselves screamed foul. In some cases, they filed police complaints. This all fell on deaf ears.
The deafest ears of all were in the legal system. Wealthy guys like Weinstein and Cosby play the system by spreading lots of cash around and shelling it out in numerous settlements with the alleged victims. The victims agree. The courts agree. Their attorneys agree. The price for this is again, silence. The victims are legally bound not to open their yaps publicly about the alleged sexual abuse. This silence has another dangerous consequence when the allegations of abuse by men such as Weinstein and Cosby eventually become public. Heads will nod furiously in disbelief. The immediate retort is: Why are they bringing this stuff up now? Why did they keep quiet so long if this was happening? This makes the victims and their claims suspect; that it’s all made up to ruin reputations, get some cheap publicity and a shake down for money,
Cosby and his apologists before, during and after his sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania last June endlessly used this ploy to trash his accusers. This was a straw man argument if ever there was one. There is an obvious answer why beyond fear, uncertainty and trauma of the victims that many say nothing.
The Iowa Law Review in March 2014 gave an answer. It found that rape is routinely underreported in dozens of cities. The rape claims were dismissed out of hand with little or no investigation. The result was there were no report, no statistical count and no record of an attack.
The study zeroed in on the prime reason for this, namely disbelief. It’s that disbelief that assures that men such as Cosby and Weinstein are reflexively believed when they scream foul at their accusers. They lambaste them as liars, cheats and gold diggers or ridicule and demean them as sluts. If things get too hot, they toss out a few dollars in hush money settlements, and the screams are even louder that it was all a shakedown operation in the first place, and the victim is further demonized.
The gross misconception about prosecuting sexual crimes has implanted the dangerous public notion that rape and sexual harassment can be minimized, marginalized or even mocked because the clock has wound down on when the crime could or even should be reported or prosecuted.
It’s not just the warped and tainted “blame-the-victim syndrome.” Countless studies of rape victimization have shown that the attacker is not a stereotypical weird, ticking time bomb pervert. He can be anyone from the helpful, adorable boy next door to a wealthy, staid, respectable pillar of the community with a loving family. When they are accused of sexual harassment, abuse or rape, the gasps of disbelief ripple not only through the perpetrator’s family but friends, associates, law enforcement and the courts.
Cosby and Weinstein are textbook examples of how men who are alleged to commit rape and sexual harassment routinely get away with it. For years, they had their battery of high-priced attorneys, agents and influential entertainment pals who shilled for them. They had another ace to play. They bought public goodwill by becoming noted, influential philanthropists. Cosby gave millions to historically black colleges and universities and loaned out his vast and pricey collection of African-American art to major galleries. Weinstein bankrolled university film and art chairs, women’s studies programs and packs of Democratic political candidates, including Hillary Clinton.
It seemed then to defy belief that these solid benign, solid pillars of the arts, entertainment, and social activist communities could be grotesque sexual predators. Yes, Cosby was tried and will face another trial, and Weinstein was fired by the Weinstein Film Board. No matter. There are still legions who refuse to believe the worst about them let alone openly denounce them. This is how the Weinsteins and Cosbys get away with it.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. His latest book is, The Trump Challenge to Black America (Middle Passage Press) will be released in August. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.