Midday Culture Connections: Is This a Watershed Moment for Sexual Assault Allegations? | WYPR

Midday Culture Connections: Is This a Watershed Moment for Sexual Assault Allegations?

Nov 7, 2017

Credit Centers for Disease Control

To date, more than 60 women have accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The accusations range from indecent exposure to rape. A new piece in the New Yorker written by Ronan Farrow alleges that Weinstein hired private investigators to collect information on his accusers and the journalists who tried to expose him in an effort to suppress stories about his predatory behavior.  

In the days after the New York Times published the initial story on Weinstein detailing a few of the allegations, more people came forward with sexual assault allegations against other powerful men in Hollywood including producer James Toback and actor Kevin Spacey. At least 60 women have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault; a majority of those accusations came to light in 2014 and 2015. The trial in one of those cases ended in a mistrial earlier this year. 

The sexual assault accusations are not limited to Hollywood. Former President George H.W. Bush issued an apology after actress Heather Lind said that he touched her inappropriately from his wheelchair. NPR’s top editor Michael Oreskes was forced to resign following accusations of sexual harassment. In several of these cases, the accused men have been fired from prominent positions, and they’ve lost major business deals. What does that mean when the President boasted about sexual assault on tape and was still elected? Yet, something about the Weinstein case and its aftermath seems different. Is this a watershed moment for us to truly reckon with our history of rape and sexual violence? Is this avalanche of public accusations evidence of an eroding male power dynamic? According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped.  Are victims of sexual assault now feeling more empowered to speak out against their abusers?    Dr. Sheri Parks joins Tom for Midday Culture Connections to explore these questions. She’s an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park, and the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman.