Weinstein Made Us Pay Attention. What Next?

[Content Note: Rape culture; descriptions of sexual assault at links.]

Lauren Holly is the latest actor to publicly disclose having been assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. At the link is a description of what happened, which is very similar to stories other women have shared. And then comes this:
After leaving the hotel, Holly went to a previously planned dinner with other Hollywood notables, who, when she explained why she arrived distraught, said that since Weinstein hadn't raped or assaulted her, she should "keep [her] mouth shut because it's Harvey Weinstein."
That, too, is something a number of the now more than 30 women who have reported being assaulted by Weinstein have reported: Being admonished to silence with some variation on that's just who Harvey is.

That so many people were willing to protect him is probably why Weinstein, according to TMZ, believes this entire thing is just a temporary setback: "Our Weinstein sources say he knows he's 'momentarily toxic' but thinks with a little time, writers and actors will seek him out again because of his track record."

That's partly sheer hubris, but it's undoubtedly also partly the fact that Weinstein knows as well as anyone, and better than most, that Hollywood loves a good redemption story. Rape accusations haven't stopped people from working with Roman Polanski or Woody Allen. A rape conviction hasn't stopped people from working with Mike Tyson. The open secret about Louis C.K. isn't stopping people from working with him. The repeated known violence and rumors of even more didn't halt Charlie Sheen's career. And the list goes on. In a direct line to the White House.

If Weinstein doesn't find work again, he will be a notable exception.

It's hard to imagine that after dozens of women have come forward with harrowing stories of being assaulted by Weinstein that there could even be a chance of his working again. But there is.

Because there are powerful men who think he's getting a raw deal.

Because as much as rape apologists love to claim that rape allegations ruin men's lives, they don't — because there are always people keen to make sure that doesn't happen.

And because one of the key facilitators of the rape culture is institutional forgetting.

It's unfathomable that after this moment, in which so many women and men, including stars like Reese Witherspoon and Terry Crews and America Ferrera, have shared stories of having survived sexual abuse in their lives, that things could just go back to "normal." That we could, collectively, just go back to not talking about the scourge of sexual violence that tears through lives and families and communities, leaving (literally) untold wreckage in its wake. That we could just carry on and not do something.

But we have had moments like this before. We have had clarion calls to disclosure, and hashtags, and marches, and days of amplifying the voices of survivors, and days of sustained attention on a prolific predator and his many victims.

We have been here before. Over and over.

Then, inevitably, people's attention drifts to other things. The outrage fades. Survivors just go back to quietly surviving.

The stories about Harvey Weinstein collapse into a tiny factoid that lingers in the back of people's minds. Just another guy who turned about to be a creep that they vaguely recall hearing about once upon a time.

We should do better than that. We must. What comes next has to be different this time.

That depends on all of us resolving to make this matter in a sustained way. Instead of just gawking at the destruction Weinstein caused and then wandering away. Again.

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