The Importance of the So-Called “Hollywood Witch Hunt”


Madi Campbell, Staff Writer

When turning on the news each night, it’s seemingly impossible to avoid stories of the many sexual assault allegations occurring in Hollywood and around the country. Almost every other day it seems like a new celebrity is caught in the crossfire. Shocking stories taking down well-known stars fill my newsfeed on Twitter, and the lists of those accused is still growing, over two months after the beginning of this new wave of accusations.

This movement has been shaking Hollywood to the core, as more and more celebrities are getting accused with no intention to slow down soon. Household names like Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Ben Affleck had allegations arise; and later, all three apologized and admitted to their actions. Most recently, Today Show anchor Matt Lauer was fired from NBC after fellow coworkers raised allegations that Lauer had harassed them around the workplace and at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

This stream of (primarily) women coming forward and speaking out against their assaulters and harassers is being met with mixed reviews. To me, this is a powerful step in the right direction for a topic that often gets swept under the rug. When Netflix announced the firing of Kevin Spacey and cancelled House of Cards, many people were shocked at the extreme reaction by the streaming service. However, I saw a major company show that they had no tolerance for sexual assault.

However, some people appear to be viewing this as a modern-day witch hunt, alluding to the Salem Witch Trials that occurred in the 17th century. The Witch Trials in Salem wrongfully framed women for being witches through numerous ‘tests’ they conducted; and most of the women accused were killed by heinous methods after being deemed witches. Meanwhile, male celebrities are being rightfully accused of sexual assault and harassment in this proclaimed ‘hunt’; and those accused are being greeted with the end of their careers.

Deeming this powerful movement as a ‘witch trial’, where nobody is safe from being taken down by these allegations, is proclaiming this movement as something it isn’t. This is due in fact that the seemingly hundreds of allegations against countless celebrities have nearly all been true thus far. A majority of the people accused have apologized for their actions in statements, and some have even admitted to them as well. Falsifying sexual assault cases is something that is not commonly seen as much as some people may assume. In a statistic released by the National Sexual Violence Resource Committee, it was found that less than 6% of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston over ten years were falsified in any way.

In a year where politicians have been elected despite being accused of sexual harassment, one man even making it into America’s highest position, this new wave of courageously coming forward has been a powerful time for women. As soon as Time Magazine named the 2017 Person of the Year earlier this month, the movement was solidified into history. “The Silence Breakers”, or the stars and survivors who came forward to speak out and share their story, appear on the cover of the issue. The article delves into stories alongside pictures for each person, some remaining anonymous, while others didn’t. Each person came from a different walk of life; but they’re all held together through a bond that nobody should ever have to hold.

When I first saw the cover in the grocery store with my mom, I felt a new sense of pride. Being a young woman and growing up in today’s world, I’m often warned of the dangers of being sexually assaulted or harassed during my lifetime. I was taught self-defense in my middle school gym class, where I learned how to apply pressure points and fight back against an attacker before I was even a teenager. Now, however, on the cover of Time magazine in the grocery store, this plaguing issue and topic has a new light shining on it.

One big question still remains up in the air throughout these accusations and apologies: When will this ‘witch hunt’ of Hollywood end? The answer: to me, the hunt never even started in the first place. The people coming forward about their experiences are not seeking gross amounts of money, fame, or attention; but rather, they’re seeking justice. Taylor Swift acquiring a single dollar in the monumental case against a Colorado DJ who touched her inappropriately shows just that.

Seeing these people come forward and speak out so bravely about their experiences has been a firm reminder to everyone who has experienced something like this that they are not alone; especially in a year where we needed this the most. It’s helped to destroy the stigma and awkwardness surrounding the topic of sexual assault while opening doors to the future. In the future, this discussion will continue into the new year, where hopefully more justice will be served for those guilty.

In an interview recently, one of the first women to come forward in the Harvey Weinstein case, Katherine Kendall, expressed how she felt about the power and momentum the #MeToo movement has created around the globe. “I already feel like I’m silently holding hands with the other women that have been through this,” she said, before adding, “and there’s a great power in that.”

Yes, yes there is.

The power arising from those who have so bravely shared their stories of assault and harassment is empowering and inspiring to, not only me, but countless other people across the country. As we get ready to open the door on a new year, it’s only right that this power continues to propel into 2018, where the change will hopefully be made once and for all. This movement, however, has already begun to create that change.