When discussing sexual assault, survivors are sometimes encouraged not to report their experiences. This often stems from the fear that allegations of assault can “ruin” an accused man’s career.
We often see this in cases against college athletes, prominent political figures and celebrities—essentially any well-respected men in the public eye. This year’s Academy Awards proved that this is blatantly true. Mel Gibson and Casey Affleck—who both have rich histories of highly-publicized sexual harassment and assault accusations—were extremely successful and awarded.
Directed by Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge was nominated for six awards and won two. Additionally, Affleck walked away with an award for best actor for his work in Manchester by the Sea. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy their art, it is incredibly important that these men are not publicly praised in any way.
The most famous cases of successful accused assaulters are such men as Chris Brown and Woody Allen—abusers who are able to reappear unscathed in the public eye. Not only are they able to return to their normal lives, but they also continue to be adored and praised.
Returning to normal life for a survivor is an extremely difficult process, which is only exacerbated by seeing abusers in positions of power succeed, despite their actions.
Gibson, while not only accused of assault, openly admitted to slapping his wife and was caught on tape screaming both racial profanities and anti-Semitic statements and saying that he wanted his wife to be assaulted.
While he flew under the radar for a few years since the incident, he resurfaced at the Academy Awards this year, smiling and laughing along to jokes at his expense.
Affleck has been accused twice of sexually harassing his coworkers—threatening and groping one when she turned down his advances and climbing into bed with another.
Both cases were settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Affleck not only won an Academy Award, but he was also handed his award by Brie Larson—who just won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2016 for portraying a sexual assault survivor in the film Room.
The message at the 2016 Academy Awards was one of solidarity and support for sexual assault survivors. The juxtaposition between Larson—an outspoken advocate for survivor rights—and Affleck—an accused abuser—was disturbing, to say the least.
The debate at hand is not whether or not these men are talented. The issue is that men accused of assault and abuse do not deserve to be overtly celebrated. Every man who continues to find immense success and attention is a message to survivors that their experiences do not matter.
Yes, it is possible to think that these men are artistically talented. The label of abuser, however, is more important than that of genius. Their abuse is what we should be focusing on and openly condemning, rather than sweeping it under the rug and presenting them with the highest acclaim and achievements in Hollywood.
Sixty-three percent of assaults are not reported to the police, while one in five women will be assaulted in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. These statistics are completely unsurprising.
Even though survivors are encouraged not to report their assaults, the Academy Awards further proved that even if they do, justice is rarely achieved. When the president of our country and numerous successful actors and musicians are accused assaulters, it is increasingly hard to believe that accusations of assault will ruin a man’s life.