I cringe as I am typing this and yet I feel empowered to finally speak out… #MeToo.
These two words, hold so much power right now and I for one am so thankful that women are speaking up around the globe. I have hesitated to write publicly about my experiences with sexual abuse, assault, and harassment because there is this deep-rooted fear that I have managed to cover up the majority of my life. The fear that by admitting that I have experienced this more than once, and at times was silenced or too afraid to speak out, means I am putting myself out there to be ridiculed and judged, or even being accused of lying.
I had managed, up until a few years ago, to deal with all of the emotions that were associated with my experiences pushing them down and away as often as I needed to, whenever they decided to bubble up and interfere with my life. This numbing out, cover it up with humor, trigger personality trait that I learned at a very young age, would both serve me and hinder me from really dealing with what I went through, throughout my life. And although it seems obvious that I am not the only one who has ever experienced this, for the first time, I know I am not alone.
I was on the phone with my brother the other day and we were talking about all things Hollywood, political and just life in general. He brought up everything going on with Harvey Weinstein and as we spoke, I found myself recounting, out loud for the first time ever, all of the times that I had experienced an inappropriate situation. From former bosses in my hometown to men in the industry here in Los Angeles. I felt like I was having some sort of out-of-body experience as I was talking because I had not really wanted to remember the details of most of these things until we started to talk and then it was like the floodgates were released. Holy shit. Why didn’t I do or say anything about all of these gross encounters? I immediately changed the subject when I felt this sick, hot lava feeling from head to toe and being the supportive big brother that he is, he encouraged me to write about it so here I am.
After we got off the phone, I felt so small, so weak and just overall gross. I cried and got really angry, read through more horror stories of women coming forward, cried for them and basically spiraled into this deep, dark rabbit hole of…I have no idea how to even put it into words. I blamed myself, tried to think of ways I could have prevented it and let’s just say it was a very ugly place to dwell in. This took a few LONG days to sort out and with the help of Lola, (my fur baby), Yoga, A LOT of tears shed, prayer and much-needed alone time, I took several deep breaths and replaced that guilt with power. It was time to speak the F up.
The first time I was violated was when I was 5 years old. So as many of you reading this who have gone through something similar knows, sexual abuse at that young of an age molds and shapes you in ways that you sometimes won’t discover until years later. In my case, it also gave me a very confusing, tainted barometer of what trust was, how relationships were supposed to be “built” within my family and outside of it with the same and the opposite sex. I had a hard time defining what was “wrong” and “right” in certain situations, for many years, especially when it came to men.
As a teenager, I worked for a small company in Arizona. My boss one afternoon, who was known to talk about the most inappropriate things almost anytime he opened his disgusting mouth, asked me to file paperwork in his office. I was crouched over with my back facing away from him, on purpose, when all of a sudden he got up from his chair and put his hands on my hips tightly and pulled me down on his lap. He was holding me tightly and telling me things like, “It’s cool that you’re not super hot and just average because you’re more approachable” I remember being startled, scared, VERY uncomfortable and I tried to pull away while laughing because that’s one of the traits I learned as a little girl. “Laugh through everything so you don’t break down and cry, don’t let them see you cry,” I repeated this to myself in the mirror and in my head when anything was out of my control and always in a situation such as this one. I finally pulled away and was encouraged by my boyfriend at the time to tell the owner of the company. So I did.
The owner paid me a visit at my apartment after I refused to return to work, at which time he smirked and asked to tell him what happened. While I told him, I started to cry and he actually laughed, rolled his eyes and said, “Look, I understand that he made you feel uncomfortable and I have had a long talk with him already. This won’t happen again. But, before you talk about it being sexual harassment and involve anyone else, I think you should know that it won’t look very good for you.” “Ok, what are you talking about, he clearly is the one in the wrong!” I cried, “Yes, he is but he also told me that you guys talked about inappropriate things….” “YEAH, HE DID and whenever we were alone at the office HE talked about the most disgusting things and unless I talk to him he won’t leave me alone! So YEAH I did “talk” to him about things I shouldn’t have the last few days before he put his hands on me but I didn’t feel like I had a choice! He would corner me or stand by the door in his office so I would laugh at his jokes or answer yes or no to his questions just to satisfy his sick twisted mind so I could go back to work and get the hell out of there!” He then told me that he understood and that I just should not proceed forward with anything because I would just embarrass myself. And for some reason, I believed him and didn’t ever talk about it again.
I quit that job and soon after moved away, promising myself that would NEVER happen to me again!
I moved on with my life and I wish I could say the experiences ended there. But they didn’t. Moving to LA opened up a whole different experience for me. An experience where manipulation by those in certain positions caused me to let my guard down and the promise of “working in film & TV” clouded my common sense. When I first moved here, I had a meeting at a directors office, in which he mentioned how beautiful I was over and over and who I caught staring at my ass and tits much more than my eyes. He told me over and over “what a great look you have!” or “I have some films coming up I would love to put you in them!” I stupidly agreed to go with him to an event he invited me to, as long as I could meet him there and bring a friend but that was not what he had in mind. He switched almost instantly and angrily refused to give me the address and said unless I went in the same car with him and came alone, he didn’t want to take me. So I told him thanks but NO thanks. He sent me a text message saying something along the lines of, “you need to change this type of thinking if you ever want to work on anything worthwhile.”. Or something like that. I haven’t spoken to him since.
Once I met an old as rocks casting director who called me “baby” among other pet names and tried to hug and kiss me anytime I saw him, regardless of my boyfriend and/or friends always being present. Even his female friend told him to back off more than once and apologized to me and other girls in the room saying he was “an old dog” and he “needed to learn to control himself”. After a few times of that happening, that was where that short-lived relationship ended.
And unfortunately, there were several others in-between with other men in the industry. A professional photographer “friend” who I trusted to no end and who I had known for several years agreed to take some head shots and a few artsy editorial print shots for me. The editorial photos, which were on the more risqué side, took me a long time to muster up the courage to do but he was a true pro, or so I thought. He ended the shoot by asking if he could kiss me because I was “just so beautiful” as I was laying in only underwear. I declined and moved away grabbing my clothing and when he didn’t move, I laughed uncomfortably and told him he could kiss me on the cheek. All of this after he handed me a glass of wine, just in case I needed to “loosen up” upon arriving. I quickly gathered my things and left. YES, I KNOW. There were several red flags but again, I trusted him and like many others, I went into a professional situation and didn’t know how to get myself out. My decision to take photos is NOT an invitation to be harassed, assaulted or violated!
These situations all had one thing in common; they all started on this high note of professionalism and all ended with this gross manipulation.
And then there was Harvey Weinstein. I met him not because he invited me to his hotel for a meeting, but at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. We were at one of the major hotels on the strip in the lounge having cocktails after a screening. A guy friend of mine dared me to go and talk to him and give him my card. I am always up for a dare and being that we had some cocktails in our belly’s, I was braver than ever. Let me just say, I had NO clue who he was…as in zero. Now, OF COURSE, I had heard of his company and of him, but I didn’t know what the hell he looked like and/or what his reputation was. But sadly after taking his dare, it took me all of 3 seconds to see exactly what his M.O. was.
He was a pig. From the get-go. He was very obviously starting at every female who walked by him, as I stood there waiting for a drink as if they were all there for his amusement. He looked me up and down and asked what I did. It was a very casual conversation and he commented on my name, said I had a unique look…blah, blah, blah. I found my way back to my friend and we left. My friend told me after this happened that he was not surprised because he had heard he was a complete pig. Things I would have loved to know BEFORE I walked up to him.
My last experience with him was the next night when I walked up to the concierge at that same hotel, asking where the restroom was, he happened to be standing nearby and offered to show me where it was, mentioning he was staying at that hotel. I declined and said something smart ass about the offer being below his pay grade and also saying that I was FULLY capable of taking myself. He smiled saying, “Oh, I like you!” I didn’t respond and hurried off to the girl’s room. We left right after and I never saw him again. THANK GOD!
On that same trip at an after party, another producer who I had met in LA “nicely” scooted over so I could share a seat, since they were all taken, only to move back right as I was sitting and I landed on his lap. He immediately put his hand on my leg moving it up and down and I looked at my friend laughing but terrified. I jumped up and his friend grabbed my ass in front of everyone. He stood up and told me that next time he invites me somewhere I am NOT allowed to bring a guy. I told him if he ever touched me again I would punch him in the throat..he laughed and said I was “cute”…we left shortly after….that’s the last time I spoke to them ever again.
When I look back on certain situations I find similarities to those like Hilarie Burton who said she laughed so she didn’t cry…how often so many of us smile to mask the truth. I found myself beating myself up for backing down when I shouldn’t have. I let fear guide me. This crippling fear is a major issue in today’s society and WE MUST NOT REMAIN QUIET! If we all allow ourselves to be ruled by our fear the major issues, such as this one, that really need to have a spotlight shined on them, will remain dimly lit and those who were hurt and who are suffering will feel the need to remain silent.
This has to stop. Not go away, STOP.
To all of the people saying they’ve never been a victim of this behavior and who are in some way, intentional or not, downplaying and discrediting all of the women who are brave enough to come forward. STOP. To those who think that if you “protect yourself” or aren’t “the hot girl” and wear clothing that covers you up, you are not at risk, (SERIOUSLY?!) STOP.
This type of predator does NOT discriminate if someone wants something badly enough and they have their mind made up that they are going to get it, WE ARE ALL an “easy target”.
I am so sad and very angry but amidst all of this, I am so proud and inspired by all of the women who have spoken out against this disgusting abusive behavior. To all of the women who have recently been deeply affected and who were abused by Harvey Weinstein and other men in power…including the POTUS…(WTF?!), YOU ALL are reminding us how important it is to speak up and not allow fear to silence us. You ALL are paving the way for CHANGE TO TAKE PLACE ONCE AND FOR ALL! THANK YOU for being brave enough to come forward and speak out, stand up and stand strong together.
To the men who have NOT fallen into this category, THANK YOU for NOT being the majority and for supporting and respecting yourselves and ALL women, especially right now.
I know there are still so many people who have not shared their stories and regardless if you decide to or not, know that you are NOT alone! Whether you are a man or a woman who has experienced something like this, YOUR VOICES MATTER!
In the words of Babs, “To achieve change, we must speak up. Every voice is important.” #TRUTH