Hollywood Sexual Abuse in the Age of Social Media

In 2011, former child actor Corey Feldman took part in NBC’s Underage and Famous, speaking candidly about “the big secret” in Hollywood–paedophilia. Feldman, who began his rise to prominence in 1984 at the age of 13, stated that the abusers had “great power in the entertainment industry”. He then went on to blame his friend and fellow child actor – Corey Haim’s – death on such abuse at the hands of the Hollywood elite, stating in his memoir Coreyography that Haim’s abuser had convinced him that “all the guys in the entertainment world do it.” He repeated his claims in a 2013 Barbra Walters interview, stating that “they are some of the richest most powerful people in this business. And they do not want me saying what I am saying right now.” He was met with the criticism that he was “damaging an entire industry.”

And while Feldman has been outspoken in his mission to out Hollywood’s “big secret” for over five years now, it is only recently that the secret appears to be on its way to exposure. Feldman has made clear on several occasions how dangerous it is for victims to speak out, and though Feldman has never named names, during his appearance on The View he stated “They don’t want me here right now. They want me dead.” The fear that comes with victims speaking out has become more than evident in the last two weeks or so in the allegations against one of Hollywood’s most prominent producers and executives – Harvey Weinstein.


The initial break of the story is thanks to the work of journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in The New York Times, and the story proceeded to burst into the trending topics of social media sites across the world. Suddenly everyone’s eyes are exposed to the headlines, not just those that pick up their morning copy of The New York Times or whichever newspaper picks up the story next. People of all generations can read of the abuse these women have kept shut inside – in some cases – for more than twenty years.


The similarities between the women’s accounts mark how routine Weinstein’s systematic abuse had become. The connections are clear; for up-and-coming hopefuls in the industry, the threat of being blacklisted by Weinstein –famous for playing a pivotal role in classics and Oscar winners such as Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love – is enough to reduce you to silence, regardless of how much you wish you could out your abuser.


What these women display in coming forward is nothing less than sheer bravery, and the use of social media platforms to out such abusers is arguably one of the key factors to their stories being told. While the initial piece began with a formal interview with Ashley Judd, 6 days later Cara Delevingne took to her Instagram account – which is followed by more than 40 million users – to share her experience of sexual harassment by Weinstein. Her name began trending on Twitter within the hour, and publications around the world picked up her story.


The Weinstein case also influenced victims of other abusers to come forward with their stories. On October 6th, the day after the Weinstein story broke in The New York Times, April Dawn – an editorial intern at The Tracking Board – and Emma Bowers – former Screen Junkies intern – were shared their experiences of abuse at the hands of Andy Signore; co-creator of Screen Junkies and their popular Emmy-nominated Honest Trailers series, on Facebook and Twitter. Signore was then fired from the company. Old clips pertaining to abuse have also been allowed to resurface on social media, such as a 2003 MTV clip of Ben Affleck allegedly groping actress and producer Hilarie Burton’s breast. Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette used her Twitter account to tell of a “weird” experience she had with director and writer Oliver Stone in 1994, including his physical blocking of her leaving a bathroom to scold her on bringing her boyfriend to a screening of his film Natural Born Killers. Former Playboy model Carrie Stevens also exposed Stone on Twitter for grabbing her breast, stating that he and Weinstein were “two of a kind.” Stone had just recently defended Weinstein as being “condemned by a vigilante system” when both women came forward with their experiences, also claiming that “it’s not easy what [Weinstein’s] going through, either.”


What Oliver Stone considers to be an unfair “vigilante system” can also be seen as the platform for victims to share their experiences that’s been needed for decades, the need to look no further for evidence of this being the ultimate take down of one of Hollywood’s most prominent figures. The overwhelming sense of community exercised through things like #MeToo as well as the instant and direct back and forth of support makes it all the more comfortable for these women to come forward. It is unlikely that Weinstein will ever work in Hollywood again, after being fired by The Weinstein Company’s board of directors and expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And had social media been around in 1977 when Roman Polanski plead guilty to raping a 13-year old girl and fled the United States after being told his plea bargain would likely be overturned, it is debatable that he ever would have been able to produce and direct 2002’s Oscar-winning The Pianist or win the coveted Best Director award at the Oscars – an award he could not pick up in person due to his self-imposed exile out of fear he’d be put behind bars should he return.


Social media has also allowed a resurfacing of Corey Feldman’s previously mentioned interview with Barbara Walters on The View, as well as cries of outrage that Feldman’s claims had been the subject of ridicule and unwillingness to investigate on the media’s part for years. Feldman has been using his Twitter account to emphasise the injustice of the silence that was forced onto him, as well as drawing attention to a 2013 RadarOnline article pertaining to an uncovered 1993 police recording of Feldman reporting his own molesting to Santa Barbara Sheriffs, with the article stating that Feldman had even named his abusers in the interview – which he has never done publicly – and that the police department did nothing to investigate his accusations.


Feldman has clarified on his Twitter account that none of the Hollywood heavyweights he named to the police or accused publicly were Harvey Weinstein, but if anything that only goes to show how pervasive Hollywood’s abuse problem is. There are others out there yet to be outed, though the hope remains that the recent rush to support the victims and punish the perpetrators, even when that means turning on one of Hollywood’s most powerful men, could mean the floor is open for others to tell their stories without fear of being shunned from the industry. And perhaps whistleblowers like Corey Feldman will finally stop being oppressed for doing the right thing.

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