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Accountability!

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I was blown away when I heard the announcement of Harvey Weinstein’s sentence.  It felt like a personal win to me and I found myself checking the news, to be sure I wasn’t mistaken and that he had indeed, received a 23-year prison sentence. Even now I have to say WOW.

The women involved in this case may never know how many lives they have saved as their bravery has made an enormous impact across the globe.  This is a victory for all victims of abuse everywhere.

To see someone, previously referred to as a ‘Giant of the Movie Industry’ being held to account for his actions is evidence of real change that will inspire more victims to speak out while putting all predators on notice, with particular emphasis on the rich, famous and powerful ones.

It was remarkable that Judge James Burke, gave no credence to pleas from Weinstein’s legal representatives when asked to consider Weinstein’s personal charitable giving, advanced age, medical issues and lack of criminal history.  This judge demonstrated the wisdom of his position to realise that none of those attributes curtailed his sexual misconduct, so why should they factor at all when considering his sentence.  Wouldn’t it be great if judges worldwide got this message?

Watching this case unfold reminded me of being in court, prosecuting our father for sexually abusing us as children. We were told repeatedly that our fathers age, health and standing in the community are very likely to result in a non-custodial sentence. Thank god it didn’t work out that way as he received a seven-year sentence. 

We continue to be horrified by the number of cases in the Irish courts where these personal attributes that have absolutely nothing to do with the crime, are not only considered but are in some cases the deciding factors when it comes to sentencing of sexual predators. This is shameful. And my only hope is that this case will act as turning point for how things should be done.

AGAINST BEST ADVICE

It was fascinating to hear that not only did Weinstein speak in court, but he did so despite the advice of his very experienced and expensive legal team.  Weinstein practically blamed his legal team for his silence throughout the case whilst continuing to ignore their repeated attempts to hush him as he spoke for about twenty minutes in court.  

Weinstein with no sense of understanding of the lasting harm he had done, expressed his remorse for the situation he found himself in.  He displayed his complete ignorance about consent and lamented about how the allegations had impacted his personal life. He was outspoken about the confusion he felt not only for himself but for all men as he felt he did not understand why this was happening.  He expressed his fear at the lack of due process for men and stated he was really worried about his country.

He continued to speak about his total confusion about how he has ended up where he was as he felt he had consensual relationships with these women.  He felt lots of other men would also be confused if they were to be accused of sexual abuse. He wanted the judge to speak to people he felt had greatly benefitted from his charitable work (naming 9/11 in particular). It was clear that he believed he had done nothing wrong and that what was happening to him in the courts was both unfair and an injustice.

SELF INTEREST

To me, all predators when caught, focus their concern on what is happening to them and how they have been personally impacted, without a thought for their victims.  It seems of great importance to them that we understand the pain they are in.  They have no desire to understand the damage they have done to their victims. These similarities tell us something about the type of people we are dealing with.

My father’s only words when receiving his sentence was ‘I hope you are all fucking happy now’.  I have no doubt, he believed we were the ones that caused him great pain while he remained oblivious to the pain he had brought into our lives. 

The closest my father ever came to an apology was on one of his early court appearances. My sisters, brothers and my mother were all huddled in a circle standing in the hallway of the packed courthouse.  My father appeared behind Paula and attempted to push past her to get to my mother. Paula was not moving. He was furious with the veins standing out on his neck. He had no choice but to continue with the speech he had prepared from the outskirts of the group.  He spit his words out. He was so angry that he could no longer intimidate us to move and let him speak to my mother.

He began to mutter some form of apology to my mother. She was not interested in anything he had to say and simply ignored him.  He was furious at our lack of obedience and Paula’s continued obstruction really bothered him.  The audacity of him attempting to act like the leader he believed he was, while spurting out an insincere apology and expecting that to change everything.  The Guards noticed him and walked towards us to remove him, so he had to reluctantly walk off, still enraged, believing we were the problem.

I find it interesting that regardless of what case is taking place in the media, but particularly when it’s a big case, memories of our own experience get triggered. I feel a great sense of pride in the courageous women involved in all sexual abuse cases and hope these women know how amazing they are and what a great service they are doing for the millions of victims out there.

‘THE MORNING SHOW’

Recently I watched an American TV series called ‘The Morning Show’, produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston (Alex) and Reese Witherspoon (Bradley). This show, although fictional, provided some insight into the world of rich and powerful men like Harvey Weinstein.

The programme is based on a news and talk morning television show that is thrown into chaos when Alex’s (Jennifer) on-air partner of 15 years, Mitch Kessler (played by Steve Carell) is fired for allegations of sexual misconduct.  

Mitch is loved by the audience and appears to be admired by all the production team. He presents as charming, funny and charismatic. However, as the plot unravels it becomes clear that Mitch has used his position and influence to make or break careers of ambitious females within his industry, not unlike what Weinstein did.  

What is very interesting throughout the series is seeing the struggle all the characters within the show had with understanding Mitches behaviour, how they had played a role in maintaining his belief that he was entitled to do what he was doing and there was nothing wrong with it. It explores how those around him, especially the heads of the network colluded in allowing him to basically get away with sexual abuse for years as all they focused on was the ratings.

Mitches own struggle with accepting that his behaviour had serious consequences for the women he abused was demonstrated so well.  Even the female colleagues and specifically Alex his co-anchor and friend really didn’t want to see that they had turned a blind eye to what he did accepting that it was just his way and in fact the way of the world of business.

This programme will challenge you to see how easy it is to work in or live in a toxic culture. A culture that allows those with all the power to do what they want to whom they want. It demonstrates how we all can turn a blind eye to injustice as to speak out would mean the chance of losing careers, friends or family members.  But more importantly it shows how powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Savile can and did get away with abuse even when it’s in plain sight, they are aware that if you turn away once you are unlikely to every speak out.

Joyce 

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