I have been hesitant to post anything about the current sexual harassment/assault cases coming to the forefront in the Hollywood news. I have several reasons for keeping quiet, but rather than bury the lead I will start with it. I have experienced harassment and assault and while I won’t go into details about who/what/where/how, I will tell you from a victim’s perspective what it did to me.
I grew up in NJ, lived in Las Vegas and spent a lot of time in NYC so I wasn’t scared at all about moving to Hollywood. I was a single mom of 2 young boys and I didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles but I was confident in my ability to navigate our way in this new town. I was very new to Hollywood when I was assaulted, it’s not something I talk about and most people who know me don’t know the story but a few do…and the people that I’ve told almost always have the same reaction and while the wording is different, the meaning is the same—they seem surprised that it would happen to “a girl like me” and I think what they mean is the “tough as nails, Jersey girl, who probably has a family similar to the Sopranos.”
But the truth is—sexual harassment and assault can happen to anybody!
Male, female, young, old, big and strong, small and fragile, any ethnicity etc…and it happened to me, actually it happened more than once—but the first one was the worst.
I trusted someone and I thought they were interested in me as an actress and they weren’t. I put myself in a risky place because I thought I was going on an audition. I was lucky enough to escape but not before some damage was done. Beyond the physicality of the assault, it did emotional, spiritual, and mental damage as well.
I had told people, friends/family/acting coach etc about the opportunity and I was excited and they were excited for me—how do you tell people when they call or ask “How did it go?” They stand there all smiles in anticipation of an answer that will make them hug you and squeal with delight, I felt like I was letting them down to in a way.
How do you say “Oh, it turns out he was just trying to fuck me, not put me in his next film…haha, silly me. So how are you doing?” No, I couldn’t say that so I would just lie. “It went well, we will see what happens” I hated him for making a fool out of me, but I hated myself too—for putting myself in that situation, for believing that he was interested in me for a part, and I hated being an artist with dreams and hopes.
I think every artist has those moments when they think of giving up, when it just seems easier to get a “real job” and have some stability and health insurance. For me those moments came up a lot, especially being a single mom, I think there were a lot of people who thought I should “put my kids first” and give up my dreams. I always felt like showing my kids how to pursue your passion was a greater lesson—turns out I was right—I have 3 amazing kids who all pursue their dreams.
Besides doubting myself and feeling silly for wanting to chase this dream, I also had PTSD. I would get so nervous about going to any auditions that I viewed as risky (as in weren’t in a big office building on Wilshire Blvd) sometimes I wouldn’t show up. One of my agents would let me keep him on the phone while I walked into some locations if I was nervous. Years after the attack, I was, in a sense dragging this low-life scumbag to every audition with me. That is the part I don’t think the attacker can understand…how you affect someone for the rest of their life.
I know this asshole has a wife and kids and I wonder how he’d feel if someone did that to his daughter or wife. THAT is the part that is SO mind-blowing to me! How would Louis C.K. feel if some douchebag was “using his power” and masturbating in front of his daughters? What would Bill Cosby do if someone was drugging his daughters and having sex with them? How do you rape a woman and then go home and kiss your daughters goodnight???
I have no answers but I will say that as I watch the news and see these brave people come forward and tell their stories, I am moved and I feel a healing coming for all of us. I am impressed with the studios and networks that are firing people and holding people accountable. I am aware that the studios/networks care about money and I’m sure their decisions are based more on that than compassion but either way I am happy that it’s happening. If there is a silver lining to all this, here is what I hope it looks like:
That more women write, produce, direct, and act in films and television that don’t objectify women but portray us in roles that show who and what we really are. I also hope it prevents men from using their power in ways that hurt others and instead use their power to protect and defend women.
I want to end this blog post by saying I know there are more men out there that are good, strong, loving, compassionate, and kind to women—I’m married to one so I know first hand. I also think behind every great man is a great woman—so as women we have a job to do to—to act in a way that demands the respect and love that we deserve. If we don’t believe we are worth it, no one every will.