During The Hollywood Reporter's Nov. 11 annual roundtable discussion featuring six of the top current female actors, Emma Stone advocated for silent victims of abuse. She believes they don't receive the same support as those who step forward. After the group of women were asked if they thought the pattern of people unfairly using power to their advantage and the culture of abuse could change, Stone answered honestly, "I'm someone who holds in a lot and gets really nervous to speak."
She continued, "We have to recognize that there are so many who haven't told their stories yet, who aren't comfortable to share." The Battle of the Sexes star wants others to remember it's up to a victim to tell their story when or if they're ready to do just that. She continued,
"I feel so much compassion for those who are still getting up and going to work every day with their abuser or have had abuse in their past and who are not ready to say anything. And putting pressure on women to share it, you know, 'If you're not saying it now, then you're complicit in this evil that's occurring,' isn't fair."
The final point she makes is an important one: Never should a victim of sexual misconduct ever be made to feel like they're at fault. Victim blaming is never OK and it doesn't solve anything. Believe it or not, but victims are criticized for not speaking up in time. For example, after the sexual assault and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced in October, there were many who wondered why the alleged victims didn't come forward sooner. (Weinstein has denied via a spokesperson any allegations of nonconsensual sex.)
The perpetuation of rape culture is very alive. It's unfair to pressure victims to speak about their experiences openly. It isn't up to victims of sexual misconduct to prevent further abuse nor to punish their violators by saying, "Me too". When a victim is interrogated for why they remained silent, rape culture is perpetuated further because the victim then no longer feels like the victim, but rather the one in the wrong.
Yolanda Moses, a University of California, Riverside professor and a consultant/trainer for preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, spoke with Live Science about why some victims remain silent. Per Moses, the individual may not want to relive the assault or harassment and it can be painful or embarrassing for that person. Furthermore, Moses said that when it comes to making allegations against someone in a power position, the accuser may choose to say nothing, especially if that person has control over their life or career.
There are also other reasons why some don't speak up or report it to the police. According to Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), here are a few reasons why sexual violence crimes weren't reported to the police from 2005-2010: 20 percent "feared retaliation", 13 percent "believed the police would not do anything to help", 8 percent "believed it was not important enough to report", and 2 percent "believed the police could not do anything to help".
In addition to Stone, Jessica Chastain, Mary J. Blige, Alison Janney, Jennifer Lawrence, and Saoirse Ronan all spoke with THR, but it was Chastain who opened up about victim-blaming. "The onus isn't on women," she said. "Society has a way of blaming victims: You didn't come out soon enough or you're not asking for enough money. But the onus is on others not to abuse their power."
Despite the many issues that still exist when it comes to sexual assault and harassment, there might be a bright light at the end of the tunnel, according to Chastain. "I'm devastated by all the stories that have come out because it's heartbreaking," she said, "but at the same time I feel hopeful because we're not ignoring it anymore."
The same goes for I, Tonya star Janney, who said, "But it's exciting to think of a time where kids growing up won't know what that [sexual misconduct] is, that it will be a thing of the past, and there won't be any more abuse of power. It's exciting to think of our culture changing."
If someone does or doesn't come forward with sexual assault or harassment claims, there's always a chance they will be judged and blamed for an incident they didn't create. It often seems to be a lose-lose situation, which is unfortunate, to say the least. But, thankfully, there are people like Stone speaking up on behalf of both vocal and silent victims.
Now, with the climate of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood that continues to be made public, the culture of power and abuse will hopefully change for the better — and go away completely. It certainly won't happen overnight, but by supporting and believing all victims makes for a good foot forward.