Written by Winona Young, Staff Writer
On May 30 this year, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein for charges of sexual assault and other criminal sex acts. Weinstein surrendered himself earlier that week to authorities, and is currently awaiting trial in the comfort of his own home after paying a bail of one million dollars.
The New York Times and other publications reported on the allegations against Weinstein in October of 2017 — but here we are, almost halfway through 2018, and only now is Weinstein being punished. Weinstein’s case is a crucial example of the long standing sexual abuse that is perpetuated by powerful men, especially Hollywood executives. However, despite the situation’s severity, we all witnessed that after months of accusations, Weinstein wasn’t in cuffs until less than two weeks ago. Why did it take so long for Weinstein to be indicted? And more importantly, what are the implications of Weinstein’s indictment having taken so long?
By failing to react swiftly to Weinstein’s actions and delaying his punishment, we risk doing more harm than the “good” of giving him the benefit of the doubt. We risk diminishing the voices of alleged victims of sexual abuse within Hollywood. For Weinstein’s arrest to come this late means that not enough was done to deal with this severe situation seriously.
Dozens and dozens of women have come forward with their accounts of sexual abuse at Weinstein’s hands. Stories range from as recent as a few years ago to a few decades ago. Regardless, victims of sexual assault often purposefully stay silent about their abuse for fear of being punished again. To blatantly admit that you are a victim of sexual abuse and assault, especially at the hands of an influential figure, such as Weinstein, is an act of bravery that should not be taken lightly — it is a call to action that sexual abusers must be punished. So, since October, at least 80 women have provided stories against Weinstein, which should have made the urgency for his arrest to grow stronger with each word.
The length of time it has taken for Weinstein to be arrested sends a message to his victims that their numerous accounts may as well have fallen on deaf ears. One may argue that the delay of an arrest may have no effects on survivors, but remember this: when they came forward with their stories, nothing happened to Weinstein at first. Weinstein’s agonizingly slow punishment sends the message that not even horrifying accounts of abuse are not enough to speed up the process of bringing him to justice.
Not only does Weinstein’s delayed arrest affect sexual abuse survivors, but it also affects his fellow sexual abusers. TIME recently provided a list of 122 public figures who had been accused of sexual assault and abuse since Weinstein was first called out. I would usually be disappointed but not surprised at the horrifying state of Hollywood’s attitude towards sexual abuse, but when I found that the article was published in January of this year, I just about lost it. I was so shaken and even more disgusted than I thought would be possible. The #MeToo movement is more important and relevant than ever, and Weinstein’s case undoubtedly helped illustrate the real horrors within Hollywood.
The delay of Weinstein’s punishment sends a message to other well-known sexual abusers that their punishment is a process that can be delayed too. It reinforces the notion to other sexual abusers that having over 80 women accuse you of sexual abuse and assault will warrant neither your immediate arrest nor your punishment. I fear that sexual abusers would think: “if Weinstein can assault that many people for so long, why can’t I?”
Despite Weinstein’s eventual arrest, he was released after paying a bail sum of one million dollars. If Weinstein’s — a serial sexual abuser — ability to wait for trial in the comfort of his own home wasn’t maddening enough, he gets to do so as a wealthy, white, powerful male. Weinstein not having to await trial in jail is not only insulting to all his victims, but to criminals of non-violent crimes. Due to Weinstein’s excessive wealth, he is able to temporarily walk free under steep bail prices while criminals who commit petty crimes, especially for those who fall under minority groups, are subject to the painfully unjust and unfair US criminal system.
Both Weinstein’s delayed arrest and swift return to freedom highlights the injustice and incompetence of law enforcement when dealing with his case. His case should stand as a shining example that a crime as severe as sexual assault and abuse is a situation that must be dealt with swift punishment and nothing less.