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There have been cases and accusations of sexual abuse in Hollywood, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, known as the main base of the U.S. film industry, reported against people related to the medium of cinema.[1]

Accusations of sexual assault in the industry go back to 1921, and during the last decades they have gained strength due to the accusations against producers, directors, actors and related publicists. Speculation about sexual assault in the industry grew in 1977, when director Roman Polanski left the United States after being convicted on charges of sexual abuse against a minor.[2]

In October 2017, the issue gained extensive media coverage after producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual abuse by more than 80 women. The accusations to Weinstein led to dozens of men and women to publicly began to denounce sexual aggressions, in what became known as the Weinstein effect and the Me Too movement.[3] Some actors in the medium joined the protest and became sensitized with the victims. The subject continues being object of general interest for the public opinion.[4][5]


Fatty Arbuckle caseEdit

The first mediatic case occurred on September 5, 1921, when comic actor Roscoe Arbuckle was accused of sexual abuse against actress Virginia Rappe. Arbuckle had organized a party in which, it was alleged, he took advantage of Rappe's drunkenness to rape her. The aggression was so violent that Rappe died four days later. The news coverage reached such a pitch that journalist and newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst wrote columns in which he directly accused Arbuckle and added details to the event, such as that Arbuckle had raped Rappe with a bottle.[6] Arbuckle was the defendant in three widely publicized trials for the rape of Rappe, and after the first two trials, which resulted in hung juries, Arbuckle was acquitted in the third trial and received a formal written statement of apology from the jury. Despite Arbuckle's acquittal, the scandal was enough to end his career.[7]

Reported casesEdit

Roman Polanski caseEdit

In 1977, Samantha Gailey, then 13 years old, accused director Roman Polanski of forcing her to have sex with him. Gailey described that the director took her to the house of actor Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles, under the argument of wanting her as a model for a photo shoot for Vogue magazine. There, Polanski supplied quaaludes and later photographed her topless. Both were alone in Nicholson's house, so Polanski took advantage to take her to the master bedroom and then rape her.[2] Polanski was accused of sexual abuse of a minor, drug use, perversion and sodomy. The prosecution ordered 90 days of state prison that included a psychiatric evaluation, while deliberating the final sentence. However, Polanski requested another 90-day probation period to finish a then-current project, which was granted. After filming finished, the director returned to his native France where, due to the terms of his sentence, his French nationality prevented him from being extradited to the United States.[citation needed] Since then, he has remained in Europe.[citation needed]

The Polanski case sparked the interest of the American media who condemned the actions of the French authorities. In March 2003, during the 75th Academy Awards ceremony, Polanski was awarded the Academy Award for Best Director for the film The Pianist; Polanski did not attend. Attendees at the ceremony gave the director a standing ovation despite being absent.[8] In September 2009, he was arrested at the Zürich Airport in Switzerland at the request of American authorities on the Samantha Gailey case, however, the following year, the Justice Department announced that Switzerland would not extradite Polanski. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Poland also refused to reopen the case. In 2017, Gailey herself asked to close the case, arguing that she only preferred to "turn the page."[2]

In 2010, Charlotte Lewis, accused Polanski of predatory sexual conduct against her when she was 16 years old, claiming that Polanski insisted that she sleep with him in return for casting her in Pirates.[9][10]

In December 2016, the Supreme Court of Poland rejected an request for Polanski's extradition. Polanski is a dual citizen of France and Poland, and as of 2016 lived in France, which does not extradite its citizens.[11]

Woody Allen caseEdit

Woody Allen in 2015

In 1978, actress Mia Farrow and her husband André Previn adopted Soon-Yi Previn, born in Seoul. After Farrow's divorce from Previn, she began a relationship with film director Woody Allen. Besides Farrow's children from her previous relationship with Previn, Farrow and Allen had a son, Ronan Farrow, and adopted two others. In 1992, rumors about a crisis in the relationship between Farrow and Allen were confirmed when she stated that she had discovered her adopted daughter Soon-Yi having sex with Allen. At that time Soon-Yi was 17 years old. After that, the relationship was finished and Farrow was left with the custody of all her children. The court granted Allen an agreement that he could see them with Farrow's permission.[12] On August 4, 1992, Farrow left all her children with Allen while she went shopping. According to a later statement, Allen took advantage of the moment to go down to the basement with one of his adopted daughters, Dylan Farrow, then 7 years old, and later sexually abuse her. A legal dispute began for the total custody of the minors and Allen was taken to court, although the accusation did not proceed. A year later, a doctor at the Yale–New Haven Hospital's Children's Sexual Abuse Clinic stated that Dylan Farrow's rape story was possibly an invention of the girl caused by the stress of living in a volatile home.[13] Dylan Farrow, by then 28, repeated the assault allegation in February 2014 in an open letter in The New York Times blog of Nicholas Kristof, a family friend, stating: "When I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and took me to a dark attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lie on my stomach and play with my brother's electric train. Then he abused me sexually, he spoke to me while he was doing it, whispering to me that I was a good girl, that this was our secret and he promised me that we would go to Paris and I would become a movie star."[13][14]

Although Allen has denied all the accusations against him, his son Ronan Farrow defended his sister and became one of the main activists against sexual abuse and one of the first to write a report about the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, leading to the Weinstein effect and the Me Too movement.[12] Allen has been married to Soon-Yi since 1997. After the 2017 accusations, actors such as Griffin Newman,[15] Ellen Page,[16] Evan Rachel Wood,[17] David Krumholtz,[18] Greta Gerwig,[19] Mira Sorvino,[20] Rebecca Hall,[21] Timothée Chalamet,[22] Rachel Brosnahan,[23] Natalie Portman,[24] Colin Firth,[25][26] Marion Cotillard,[27] Chloë Sevigny,[28] Joaquin Phoenix,[29] Hayley Atwell,[30] Peter Sarsgaard,[31] Elle Fanning,[32] and Michael Caine[33] publicly expressed their regret for having worked with Allen; with Newman, Hall, Chalamet and Fanning saying they would donate their earnings from Allen's film A Rainy Day in New York (2018) to charities.[22] On the other hand, actors Diane Keaton,[34][35] Alec Baldwin,[36] and Cherry Jones[37] came out in his defense.

Convictions and alleged abusesEdit

In April 2014, Michael F. Egan claimed that his acting career was cut short in 1999 when he refused to continue attending "parties" held by powerful men from the film industry.[38] Egan publicly denounced Bryan Singer, director of films like The Usual Suspects and the X-Men film series of abusing him in those parties that took place inside a mansion in Los Angeles and whose requirement for men was not to wear a swimsuit and swim completely naked. According to his testimony, when he was 15 years old, Singer raped him after forcing him to inhale cocaine. Egan explained that both Singer and other men threatened him and his family under the argument that they controlled Hollywood, and that they added: "If you do not keep the members of this group happy, we will eliminate you."[38] Singer denied the accusations, however, in 2017 another man identified as César Sánchez-Guzmán said that the director forced him to perform oral sex on him in 2003. Sánchez-Guzmán claimed to the New York Times that Singer organized parties aimed at the gay community in Hollywood and that he had threatened to "ruin his reputation if he ever spoke."

Egan also accused Garth Ancier, former president of BBC America, David Neuman, former president of Disney Channel, and Gary Goddard, a Broadway producer, of participating in the violations. Jeff Herman, his attorney, said: "Hollywood has a problem with the sexual exploitation of children." During 2011, photographs showing a party organized by Singer and director Roland Emmerich showing a pool where mature and young men shared were shown.[39]

In November 2017, actor Corey Feldman expressed his interest to make a documentary that portrays pedophilia in Hollywood and the "sectors of power" within the industry.[40] Feldman alleged that he suffered sexual abuse within what he described as a "network of prostitution." Feldman said he would seek the money to hire lawyers to back them up, since the material to be published would make a direct statement against "six main Hollywood producers who would seek to deny it." Feldman also said that actor Corey Haim, who was one of his friends and who died in 2010 from an drug overdose, had died without being able to confess to the public the name of the person who raped him when both were looking for a job opportunity.[40] Feldman had already participated in the 2014 documentary An Open Secret, which exhibited the sexual abuse committed during the casting and the recruitment of young actors in movies or commercials, by the people of the film industry. The documentary also makes multiple references to the accusations against Singer,[39] and the opinions of the children's parents, who at some point saw themselves in the need to "trust" the agents for the means to improve their economic condition. Similarly, the case of photographer Bob Villard was exposed in the material. According to the statements, Villard took photographs of children and adolescents and then sold them without permission or authorization from parents through the eBay portal as erotic content.[41][42]

Among the defendants were also Martin Weiss, manager of child actors who was arrested in 2011. Despite denying having sexual acts with minors, a recording showed that Weiss had confessed to "being with a child."[43] The recording was made by Jason James Murphy, who stated that in 1996 when he was eleven years old and Weiss was his manager, the man took him to a field where he asked him "if he had seen someone's penis," then he abused him. Weiss was sentenced to 15 years in prison, a sentence he ultimately did not fully serve.[44] The accusations also reached the producer Marc Collins-Rector, friend of Singer, who was accused of sexual abuse against boys and adolescents. Collins-Rector achieved a judicial agreement and moved to the Dominican Republic.[45]

In other cases, actor Jeffrey Jones was arrested in 2003 after forcing a 14-year-old boy to pose nude for him; Jones did not deny the accusations.[46] In the 1980s, Victor Salva (director of Jeepers Creepers) served 15 months in prison for abusing one of his actors, a 12-year-old boy, and for forcing him to have oral sex with another 14-year-old boy.[47]

In 2004, the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains actor, Brian Peck, was convicted of a lewd act against a child and oral copulation of a person under 16.[48] Brian Peck served 16 months in prison after admitting two counts of abusing a Nickelodeon child actor. He was charged with eight counts of sexual abuse, including abuse 'by anesthesia or controlled substance'. Peck was in two X-Men movies and all three Living Dead movies and is now featured in a documentary on pedophile abuse in Hollywood. Since release from prison, he has been a dialogue coach, worked on a Disney series and other projects featuring children, and claims to be friend of Charlie Sheen. Also of Growing Pains fame, executive producer Steven Marshall was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for distribution of child pornography. Steven Marshall was arrested in 2009 on charges of distribution and possession of child pornography. Marshall pleaded guilty to distribution and the possession charge was dropped. Authorities say he engaged in sending and receiving child pornography and participated in online chats detailing child abduction, bondage, rapes and murders.[49]

Bob Villard, popular headshot photographer and manager who represented Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Nucci and other actors was charged with transportation of child pornography. Villard was accused in 2001, and charged after searches of his home uncovered thousands of photographs of boys in skimpy bathing suits posed in sexually suggestive positions, police said. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years of probation. In 2005, Villard was back in court and pleaded no contest to the felony charge of committing a lewd act on a child. The victim was a 13-year-old boy who sought him out as an acting coach. Villard was given an eight-year prison sentence.[50]

Later accusationsEdit

Bill Cosby caseEdit

Bill Cosby was accused of sexual abuse by around 60 women.

Since 2014, around 60 women publicly accused actor and television presenter Bill Cosby who according to his statements had sexually abused them during the 1970s and 1980s. Most coincided that Cosby had drugged them to facilitate the aggression. For example, former model Janice Dickinson said that one afternoon in 1982, while suffering from intense menstrual pain, Cosby recommended a "pill" that supposedly calmed the discomfort. "The last thing I remember is losing consciousness and Cosby over me as the monster he is," she told CNN. In the same article, Cosby is held responsible for raping a 15 year old minor.[51]

Bill Cosby faced two trials (the second still ongoing) on charges of sexual abuse. In January 2018, he joked about the issue and appeared unconcerned.[52]

Accusations around the 89th Academy AwardsEdit

There were two high-profile accusations around the time of the 89th Academy Awards.

In October 2016, after the premiere of the movie The Birth of a Nation, its director and main actor, Nate Parker was singled out for a 1999 case, when he and his friend Jean Celestin (who co-wrote the film) were accused of sexually abusing an 18-year-old woman after drugging her. The promotion of The Birth of a Nation was involved in a climate of accusations against its director, which were credited with making the film not go beyond expectations.[53]

Actor Casey Affleck was also singled out for sexual harassment. According to reports, during the filming of the film I'm Still Here, Affleck was accused of sexually harassing Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka, producer and director of photography of the film respectively. Both parties reached an out-of-court settlement in 2010.[54] Actress Brie Larson, who having won a year earlier the Best Actress Award at the Academy Awards, had to give the award to Affleck as Best Actor, did not applaud when the actor went on stage to collect the award. Later she would say that, "whatever it was that I did onstage kind of spoke for itself".[55] In January 2018, Affleck declared that he would not present the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony, the reason being credited to not wanting to be the subject of attention at a time of the Me Too movement.[56]

Allegations in 2016Edit

In 2016, actress Tippi Hedren claimed in her autobiography that in 1963, she had been sexually harassed by film director Alfred Hitchcock during the filming of the film The Birds and that he had forbidden other male actors to approach her.[57]

At the end of 2016, it was reported that in 1972, Marlon Brando had sexually abused actress Maria Schneider during a scene from the film Last Tango in Paris. According to the reports, neither Brando nor director Bernardo Bertolucci warned the actress that she would film a sexual scene with Brando that day, leading in turn to reports that Bertolucci had "confessed" to Schneider being raped on set, prompting Bertolucci to release a statement clarifying that a simulation and not an actual intercourse took place.[58][59]

Harvey Weinstein caseEdit

The Weinstein case led dozens of victims to expose their aggressions.

The subject of sexual abuse in Hollywood acquired important significance in the world media in 2017, after producer Harvey Weinstein, founder of Miramax and The Weinstein Company, was accused by more than 80 women of having sexually assaulted them. The accusations ranged from sexual harassment to rape; Weinstein denied any wrongdoing.[60] According to the women's reports, Weinstein invited young actresses or models to a hotel room or office on the pretext of discussing his career, and then demanded massages or sexual intercourse. During an audio revealed during the ensuring scandal, Weinstein can be heard pressing model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez to accompany him to take a shower, and after her refusal, the producer insists with the phrase, "I will not do anything to you, I swear it for my children."[61]

Among the actresses who claim to have suffered harassment or rape by Weinstein are Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino, Paz de la Huerta, Annabella Sciorra and Gwyneth Paltrow. Another one of them, the Italian actress Asia Argento, elaborated a list in which accusations of sexual abuse against Weinstein were collected.[62] The incidents alleged in the list date from 1980 to 2015, and include 18 complaints of rape.[62] In them it was alleged that Weinstein conditioned important roles in films in exchange for sexual favors. As a result, The Weinstein Company and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to expel Weinstein.[63][64][65]

The accusations against Weinstein led to the disclosure of a considered number of victims of other sexual assaults by people in the film industry.

Kevin Spacey caseEdit

On October 30, 2017, actor Anthony Rapp stated that in 1986, while still a minor, he had been sexually harassed by actor Kevin Spacey during a party held at Spacey's home. According to the statement, Rapp was in Spacey's bedroom watching TV, when Spacey walked in drunk and laid on top of Rapp. In response to these allegations, Spacey alleged that he did not remember behaving inappropriately, and asked for forgiveness if it was so. In the same statement, Spacey publicly declared that he was gay.[66] The accusations against Spacey were aggravated when technical staff from the television series House of Cards (which Spacey starred) declared that the actor frequently harassed men during filming. Mexican actor Roberto Cavazos also accused Spacey of harassing him. In his story he said, "It seems that it only took being a male under 30 to make Mr. Spacey feel free to touch us."[67]

After the accusations, Spacey announced his admission to the clinic The Meadows, in Arizona, to undergo treatment for sex addiction.[66] Netflix broke commercial ties with the actor and his participation in the film All the Money in the World was eliminated; actor Christopher Plummer had to re-shoot the scenes of Spacey's character. House of Cards later announced that its following sixth season would be the series' last, and that it would be filmed without Spacey.[68][69]

Kirk Douglas allegationEdit

Another alleged case was exposed after the death of actress Natalie Wood, who died in 1981 when she fell from her yacht and drowned. In 2001, a book about the life of the actress by Suzanne Finstad revealed that she had been the victim of an alleged rape occurring during the 1950s when she was 16 years old, committed by a major actor at the time.[70] Following its publication, it was speculated that the actor was Kirk Douglas. In 2012, an anonymous blogger claiming to be a Hollywood insider published a post alleging that Douglas, while drunk, had raped Wood when the actress was 16 years old.[71][72]


The accusations to Harvey Weinstein unleashed a campaign through the hashtag Me Too with which different people joined the list of victims of sexual abuse by actors, directors and producers. The comedian Louis C.K. and filmmaker Brett Ratner had projects canceled after at least six accusations each; C.K. later confirmed the allegations against him and apologized, while Ratner denied the claims against him. For his part, the filmmaker James Toback had a total of 200 accusations of sexual harassment.

Acting coach Anna Graham Hunter declared against the actor Dustin Hoffman claiming that in 1985 during the filming of the television film Death of a Salesman the actor groped her and harassed her with comments as when she asked him what he wanted to eat at breakfast; Hoffman replied, "I'll have a hard-boiled egg and a soft-boiled clitoris." This accusation was soon followed by those of six other women. Hoffman later released an apology but denied wrongdoing, saying, "I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation," continuing, "I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am,"[73][74] but has not publicly responded to the other six allegations.[73][75][76] Other actors like Richard Dreyfuss and Jeffrey Tambor denied the accusations against them. In January 2018, after winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, James Franco was accused by five women, including Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who claimed that when she was a student of Franco, he forced them to undress and remove the plastic protections during the filming of sexual scenes. Franco did not attend the 23rd Critics' Choice Awards ceremony afterwards.[77]

Time magazine named the "Silence Breakers" behind the #MeToo movement Time Person of the Year in 2017.[78]

Accusations of complicity and criticismsEdit

Public opinion was against not only those who committed sexual abuse but those who covered or silenced it. Actors such as Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and director Quentin Tarantino admitted knowing the sexual crimes of Weinstein.[79] After actress Meryl Streep denied knowing the behavior of the producer, Rose McGowan, one of the victims, rebutted her arguing that Streep had knowledge and called her a "hypocrite."[80] On January 7, 2018, during the 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, the vast majority of attendees decided to wear black in solidarity with the victims.[5] The participation of some attendees was criticized, including Streep herself, in addition to Kirk Douglas, due to the accusations regarding Natalie Wood (see above), and of Oprah Winfrey, who after receiving the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award, dedicated her speech to the victims of such aggressions. That same night, singer Seal declared that Oprah had been a friend of Weinstein and claimed that she knew his behavior.[81]

Actor Liam Neeson criticized the social movement, alleging that the accusations against his fellow actors had turned into a witch hunt, adding, "There are some people, famous individuals, who are suddenly accused of touching a girl's knee, or something like that, and then they are dismissed from their shows."[82] In January 2018, French actress Brigitte Bardot called "hypocrites" some of the actresses who denounced the abuses. In her statement she said, "There are many actresses who provoke the producers to obtain a role, then, when speaking of them, they say they were harassed."[83]

In popular cultureEdit

During the 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, presenter Seth Meyers said in reference to the movie The Shape of Water (directed by Guillermo del Toro): "When I heard that the story of an innocent woman who falls in love with a water monster was filmed, I just said, 'Oh no, not another Woody Allen movie!'". In 2016, the presenter of the 73rd Golden Globe Awards ceremony Ricky Gervais talked about the movie Spotlight (about a journalist team who investigated the sexual abuse scandal in Boston) thus: "Spotlight is the movie about how a group of sexual predators was allowed to abuse children and continue working with impunity and without punishment. Roman Polanski called it 'the best romantic comedy in history.'"[84] At the 85th Academy Awards ceremony in 2013, host Seth MacFarlane joked when announcing the Best Supporting Actress nominees: "Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein."[85]

Psychology and behaviorEdit

The psychology center Cepsim in Madrid, Spain described in summary the profile of the abuser: "They are men or women with a lot of power who use it with vulnerable people to get what they want. Normally they lack empathy, which is what places us in someone else's pain and makes us not hurt or be selfish."[86] The Department of Psychology of the University of Málaga added that the rapist does not usually assimilate that he is committing a crime, since his mind is usually narcissistic.[87] People with media power usually present themselves with a "charming" personality, so victims are not believed.[87] The personality of abusers in show business also has atypical behaviors such as quoting actresses and models to castings or sign contracts in unusual places such as hotel rooms or private rooms. After the abuse they resort to blackmail or a direct threat to silence the victim.[86] Criminal law lawyer Alicia Ozores explained to the newspaper La Vanguardia that some abusers tried to take refuge under the argument that "they were addicted to sex", this in order to reduce a sentence and cleanse their image because sex addiction is a recognized disorder.[88] Weinstein and Spacey used the argument in response to the accusations against them. According to the psychological profile of the abuser, many stalkers and rapists did not need to resort to physical violence, since they used persuasion, deception or pressure to subdue the victim, based on their authoritative relationship.[89] In the case of child abuse itself, the rapist would be opportunistic, taking advantage of the carelessness of the parents and in this case of their desire to venture into the media.[89]

Regarding the victims, their fear is usually related to the disbelief of public opinion and to being judged by it. Usually, the society condemns the abuse but in turn questions the reason why the victim did not speak or denounce before.[86] Brazilian psychologist Flavia Dos Santos told Colombian newspaper El País that victims are usually convinced to speak when they are told that their statement reduce the amount of future incidents.[90] The victim usually feels helpless to know that his abusers are people with media power and as a result can enjoy impunity when he has public demand.[86] Many of the later behaviors of the victims, such as guilt or disbalance in interpersonal relationships, were shown in the documentary An Open Secret, where victims narrate that sexual abuse has been assumed as part of the culture in Hollywood and for that reason nobody has worried about eradicating it.[91]

Theme in the 2016 United States presidential electionEdit

Sexual abuse as a result of having a position of power was one of the issues during the 2016 United States presidential election, particularly when in October of the same year and a month before the election, an audio recording was released that dated from 2005 in which Donald Trump, then the presidential candidate for the Republican Party, was heard expressing himself in 2005 on how he used his power to "grab women." In 2005, Trump, still removed from politics, was the judge of the television show The Apprentice, a concept he had created for NBC. In the recording Trump argued about women, "when you're a star, they let you do anything. Grab them by the pussy."[92]

That same day, Trump gave a statement in which he apologized for the video's content, and said that "he was not perfect." Likewise, during the third presidential debate he argued: "nobody respects women more than me."[93] Trump won the presidential election a month later and a year later the production company Brave New Films presented a video that compiled the testimonies of 16 women who publicly accused Trump of harassing or sexually assaulting them.[94]

In October 2017, former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed their sympathy with victims of sexual abuse. Obama would testify about the specific behavior of Weinstein, "Michelle and I are disgusted by the recent reports on Harvey Weinstein; any man who degrades women in that way should be condemned and held accountable, regardless of their wealth or condition."[95]

See alsoEdit


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