The hidden culture in America of sexual harassment and abuse has been drug out of the darkness for all to see. With it comes a flood of emotions and more questions than answers. There is anger for these perpetrators and incredible sadness for their victims.
How has this been going on for so long, and so few people have ever come forwards with accusations? And the ones who did, society brushed them off as liars, grabbing for attention.
Little did we know that they were telling the truth, but the machine of power and privilege quickly silenced them.
How Did This Happen
Sexual harassment and abuse takes place everyday across America. A study done by the CDC says that about 20% of all women have experienced rape in their lives. There are multiple sources on sexual abuse because the police are usually called and the perpetrator is often a stranger.
According to The Huff Post, 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-34 have been sexually harassed at work. However, only 29% ever reported it. This same pattern exists amongst the woman who are coming forward now.
These assaults have been happening for decades, but for one reason or another, they went unreported. Unfortunately, this behavior only feeds the problem.
New victims who have seen previous assaults go unreported, now remain silent. This silence emboldens the predators and the behavior continues, and gets worse. However, I think that these new cases in the media have more complexities than other cases.
But, He’s the Boss
The men who have been accused publicly have something in common. They all work in places where they ultimately held the power, whether actual or perceived. While this is not a unique situation, it exacerbated the issue.
How do you get fired from the production company that you founded? Can you file a complaint against the star of the movie that you’re acting in? Will I get blackballed for speaking up?
In a community like Hollywood, you do not want to be labeled as “hard to work with”. Your reputation can either keep you employed or make your current role your last. So, if you wanted a successful career, you remained silent.
The powerful men in government also posed similar challenges. Getting rid of a Senator or Congressman is simply not an easy process.
The Role of HR
When some one is accused of sexual harassment at the workplace, the process is relatively simple. A report is taken of the incident, an investigation is done and there is some sort of resolution.
What many people do not realize is that the resolution is not for the sake of the victim. It is purely to save the reputation, and money, of the company.
Yes, HR exists solely to support the interests of the company, not the employees.
Sexual harassment is against the law and if it is happening in the company, they are held liable if nothing is done. So one of two things happens.
- Either they sever the relationship with the accused
- Or they make the situation go away
They chose the option that serves the company in the best way.
Don’t Fire the Talent
Imagine a situation where a middle manager in a firm in the midwest is accused of sexual harassment. If the HR department sees reasonable evidence that the accusation is true, you fire him and get a new middle manager.
Let’s say the accused is Kevin Spacey and you’ve just spent $100M on making and promoting his new movie. You don’t get a return on your money unless you release that movie and have Spacey there promoting it.
You can’t go get a new Kevin Spacey so naturally the accusation has to go away. I have a feeling that the next wave of accusations is going to center around the cover-ups that had to exist for this behavior to continue for so long.
The Baby AND the Bathwater
The reckoning that is happening in Hollywood is adversely affecting a large number of people in the industry. In order for these big production studios to save face, they are abandoning entire projects.
Multiple TV shows and movies have been cancelled, postponed or recast. What is sad is that bad behavior by a handful of people is now putting thousands of people out of work.
CNN reports that the cancellation of House of Cards alone will cost 2,000 jobs. You have all of the support staff, the remaining cast, and the people in Baltimore who benefit from the show. There has been $60M in tax credits awarded to the show by the city since it’s first season.
The recent accusations against “The Great American Baking Show” host Johnny Iuzzini led ABC to stop airing the remaining shows completely. The shows had already been filmed, but nobody will see the work done to create the show.
Quartz has put together a list of all the movies and TV shows that have been cancelled in the wake of these allegations. And this article is from November 20th. I know that the list has grown and will continue to grow. However, I feel that HR departments are also behind these cancellations.
The cost of being associated with known sexual predators has finally exceeded the benefit to the company.
I hope that we can change the culture in this country, inside and outside of these industries.
– Brian, careerintellect.com