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#MeToo Survivors on the Year That Rocked Hollywood

The fall of Harvey Weinstein triggered a reckoning in Hollywood, the aftershocks of which are still being felt a year later. The dozens of women brave enough to go public with their allegations of harassment by the indie mogul inspired scores of others to break their silence about their own painful experience with sexual abuse. From Leslie Moonves to Kevin Spacey to Matt Lauer, people once thought to be too powerful to call out for their alleged misdeeds were forced to contend with the consequences. Most of those accused continue to deny the charges.

Publicly, entertainment companies are embracing a zero-tolerance policy. Privately, a backlash is brewing, with many executives, filmmakers and stars griping that #MeToo has gone too far. Occasionally these views are vented on the record. (Case in point: Sean Penn’s recent comments that women and men are being divided by the movement.) To get a sense of what has been accomplished and where the media business and society at large need to go from here, Variety spoke with those who have come forward with their stories of abuse. They make it clear that while much has been accomplished, much work remains. The casting-couch culture has been swept away, but a debate has begun over how to ensure that it never returns.

Rosanna Arquette
CREDIT: Schneider-Press/John Farr/SIPA/R

Rosanna Arquette

Arquette is an actress who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct in the early 1990s.

What are the most important changes of the past year?
In the past year, we are finally shedding light on predatory and unhealthy behavior. We are seeing a paradigm shift because our voices are finally being heard.

What still needs to change?
I would love to see some of these powerful people acknowledge what they have done. Acknowledge that their actions and abuse of power are/were horrendous. They need to get help so this never happens again and hopefully encourage other men to come forward so they can heal. — Cynthia Littleton

Van Barnes
CREDIT: Justin Lehman Photography

Van Barnes

Jeffrey Tambor’s personal assistant on “Transparent” posted a #MeToo statement on her Facebook page back in October, accusing him (although she didn’t name him at the time) of sexual harassment and verbally abusive behavior.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
I think in the larger perspective, a lot has been accomplished because it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s the modern-day feminist-activism movement. It’s about gender equality. It’s saying that we’re not going to take it. So I would hope that perpetrators, abusers and those people would think twice before they act upon those desires or act out against people. I just hope that it’s created more of a warning sign that society is not going to accept this anymore.

I think that had the Hollywood movement not started and gotten so loud, [we wouldn’t] have the plethora outside of it. Just this past week we saw McDonald’s and their #MeToo activism really gaining a lot of momentum. I’ve run into a lot of people who don’t have the notoriety but were working in corporate America who experienced it. And so it’s become a hot button, a positive hot button.

What still needs to be addressed?
I think there will always potentially be perpetrators. We don’t really know what makes everybody tick. Hopefully that can be reprogrammed in the coming years for the people who already exist and the people who are coming of age.

But in a greater perspective, I think gender equality and equality in gender pay are going to help level the playing field. People need to stop fighting it and admit their own part in this, where they’re guilty themselves of it. I think that people are ashamed to say that maybe they have participated in this misogyny over the years, and I think that they don’t want to accept that responsibility. If people can stop being in such denial, I think that we can really make larger headway. — Debra Birnbaum

Hilarie Burton
CREDIT: Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock

Hilarie Burton

The former “One Tree Hill” star joined former crew members and cast last year in accusing series creator Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment and abuse.

What has been accomplished in the past year?
There’s definitely still stuff that needs to be addressed. Since the “One Tree Hill” story came out, since he was fired, since he was dropped by his agency, not one person who was in any position of power has reached out to any of us. Not one producer, not one studio person — no one. Our first AD reached out and was so horrified and apologetic, and it wasn’t on him at all. He and one prop guy are the two people that reached out.

So I don’t know what’s changed. But what I do know is the people who were cowards then are still cowards.

What still needs to happen?
I think the more diversity we can have in positions of power, the better. You saw how the “Roseanne” situation shook out with Channing Dungey leading ABC. Having an executive from a different background in charge, she knew the sensitivities that her audience would have to the things that Roseanne Barr said, and she handled it with authority. I think having more people in charge who could speak for a wider range of people than just old white men is something that we need to work toward. It’s going to be a slow process, but it’s going to be the correct process to engage in.

For instance, I just did a Christmas movie down in Louisiana with a bunch of people from “One Tree Hill.” We wanted to do something together that wasn’t “One Tree Hill,” that was ours. And I had a female director, Monika Mitchell. When most guys shoot these things, they take 15-, 16-hour days. Monika handled it. She was done in 10 hours every single day. And when I would act astonished, she would just say, “Babe, I’m good at my job.” Now we’re pitching another project together. I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit in this female authority figure. That dynamic feels really nice. I hope there is more and more of that in our industry. — Daniel Holloway

Rebecca Corry
CREDIT: MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock

Rebecca Corry

The comedian was one of the women who accused Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct, telling The New York Times that he asked to masturbate in front of her.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
The last year has further proven just how broken our society is and forced everyone to look at it. It has also brought to light how the majority of our culture (especially in comedy) defines grotesque behavior as a “mistake” or something “guys just do” and sees the predator as the “victim.”

What still needs to be addressed?
There need to be consequences for those who enable, lie for and protect predators. Those who speak up need to be protected. Parents need to raise better humans. — Debra Birnbaum

Chantal Cousineau
CREDIT: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/REX/S

Chantal Cousineau

Cousineau is an actress who accused director James Toback of sexual misconduct during production of the 2001 film “Harvard Man.”

What are the most important changes of the past year?
So much has happened in this one year you’d think we’d been working for the past 10 years on this movement. Now people are coming forward — women, men and children — telling their stories and being believed. That’s a big change. I have been talking about my experience with James Toback for [nearly] 20 years. No one ever thought it was anything more than “He’s just a joker.” In October I said [via social media], “Is anybody willing to talk about James Toback?” There were 38 of us within a week. We stopped counting at 395. That would have never happened five years ago or two years ago. Being heard is 90% of healing. You can hear a sigh of relief rippling through this generation of young women. It sends a message that we will speak our truth and stand together to fight for equality. I feel it was really jump-started by the Women’s March the day after [President Trump’s] inauguration. I just felt there was a shift, and women realized that we were going to be helping each other overcome this.

#MeToo: The Year That Rocked Hollywood
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What still needs to change?
We need the conversation to become less about harassment and more about equality. [Some] men feel uncomfortable with this whole movement of women seeking equality and safe workplaces. They see it as a threat to their power. We need to restructure that conversation to make it clear we’re not threatening men’s sense of power. We are looking for gender parity, equal pay for equal work, racial equality. These movements all intersect. We’ve been working with the [entertainment industry] unions to restructure their safety infrastructure. I testified in front of the [California state] Senate about that. I should be able to feel safe at work. There’s a bill on Gov. Brown’s desk just waiting for him to sign.

I haven’t worked a day since the Los Angeles Times article [on Toback] came out. I take that as a sign of a broken system. We need to make sure that people who speak out don’t pay the price. I haven’t shot a commercial in about a year. It’s something that happens [to survivors]. I just thought my career was not as important as this moment in time. Whatever happens next I’m going to use my voice any way I can. — Cynthia Littleton

Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb
CREDIT: Los Angeles Times

Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb

Former Lorimar Television executive Golden-Gottlieb accused Leslie Moonves of sexual assault in 1986 and 1988.

What are the most important things that have occurred during the past year since the Harvey revelations?
I think that all of the women speaking out makes a great difference. In this business, for so many years, we’ve been dealing with men with great power. Doing this is giving us some power ourselves. It’s telling abusive men that we can come back and [they] can be held accountable — I think that’s very powerful.

You do live with it all the time. You want them to be held accountable. The fact is you carry this pain with you for so long and you have no one to talk to. The fact that [Moonves] has been held accountable makes me feel that hopefully it will show other men and other women that they can do it. I don’t want other people to be afraid, as I was afraid for years.

What still needs to change?
Certainly it has become better for women. It’s a difficult business to break into. When I first came into the business, the first thing people would ask is “Who are you sleeping with?”

There was an HR department, but they didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t have anywhere to go. When I found out the men were making more money than I was, I went to the heads of Lorimar. They just said, “Yes, they make more than you because they are the heads of their households.”

There was no place for people to go in those days. It has become better. HR departments need to make sure they encourage people to feel free to speak up [in work environments] when things happen. In my case, I was a single mother. My needs were different than most other executives’. It was difficult. I needed my job. People need to be able to speak up and not be afraid. — Cynthia Littleton

Isa Hackett
CREDIT: Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterst

Isa Hackett

The executive producer of “Man in the High Castle” and “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” accused then-Amazon head Roy Price of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior last October. He resigned from his position a week later.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
I think initially I wondered whether this was a moment or the start of a movement, and after a year, we have our answer. The movement has clearly led to a significant paradigm shift in attitudes toward sexual harassment and abuse. It’s been breathtaking at times. I never imagined last year at this time that we would see this sort of widespread impact in our industry and others; even internationally, it’s been pretty amazing.

We’ve seen really profound consequences of the behavior, which I think is important, and on a basic level, there’s less tolerance if nothing else for the risk of it by organizations and companies. The piece that’s been most inspiring for me is really seeing women come together in powerful ways, stand shoulder to shoulder and inspire each other, and the feeling of “We’re not going back.”

What still needs to be addressed?
Just look at how Prof. Christine Blasey Ford’s experience is being handled. We’re seeing a lot of echoes from what we saw with Anita Hill, and it’s frustrating and infuriating. So I think we have a really long way to go. We have to continue to really push, to advocate for more women in positions of leadership and in all realms. That’ll take time, but we have to keep our eye on the ball with that obviously not just in our industry, but in every industry.

Maybe this is naive of me, but I also think there’s a certain value that needs to be instilled in young people, which is women understanding that this is not something that they have to tolerate, and men understanding that it’s not something that will be tolerated. Everyone has a sphere of power and influence — some big, some small — but the basic value is that you don’t abuse the power and influence that you have. If you lead with respect and always being aware of what your sphere of influence and power is and always making sure that you’re not abusing that in any way, we’d all be in a lot better shape. It just isn’t that hard. — Debra Birnbaum

Anna Graham Hunter
CREDIT: Courtesy of Anna Graham Hunter

Anna Graham Hunter

A production assistant on “Death of a Salesman,” starring Dustin Hoffman, three decades ago, Hunter spoke out last year about sexual harassment the actor subjected her to when she was 17 years old.

What has been accomplished in the past year?
I’m not in the industry, but I do have thoughts about the culture at large. The biggest thing that has changed is that women are talking to each other. Before the Weinstein allegations, all of these things seemed like they were happening to us individually. We had told our friends, but none of us understood the larger context of what was happening all over the place with so many other women.

Now those barriers have been broken down. One of the most effective ways to get away with shit like this is to make sure that your victims aren’t talking to each other. So that’s all changed, and that changed for good. There’s no way that women are going back into isolation.

What still needs to happen?
Someone wrote on my Facebook in response to the [Supreme Court nominee] Brett Kavanaugh [confirmation] hearings, “No matter how much we share our experiences of sexual assault and harassment, men still don’t get it.” I disagree with that. I think men get it all too well, but being obtuse has its uses. Being skeptical is a way for them to fight to hang on to their power. When I look at the Kavanaugh hearings, I see a bunch of white-dude bros who are terrified of losing the power they always assumed was a birthright.

As awful as the Kavanaugh hearings have been, they’ve at least showed that this is what is demanded of us — that we don’t shut up, because no one is going to give up their power willingly. — Daniel Holloway

Katherine Kendall
CREDIT: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Katherine Kendall

In October, the “Swingers” actress went public with allegations that Harvey Weinstein had exposed himself to her and essentially chased her around his apartment during a business meeting in the early ’90s. Kendall is one of several women who have filed a class-action lawsuit against the indie producer.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
We’ve gotten over the stigma of talking about sexual assault and sexual harassment and violence. It’s one of the hardest things to discuss, which is why people stayed silent for so long. But the way people heal the most is by being heard and validated and listened to. A tremendous healing has taken place for all victims — men and women. This discussion was hard to get going. We made some movement over the years, with Anita Hill or Monica Lewinsky, but it always seemed to stall.

This time was different. I thought that Weinstein would be a big story, and we’d talk about it for two weeks. I never in a million years thought it would keep going and move beyond him and the women he targeted. But this movement wouldn’t have had momentum if women and men hadn’t been held back for so long. We were pushing against this dam, and then it broke, and there was no turning back. We’d moved beyond a tipping point.

#MeToo: The Year That Rocked Hollywood
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What still needs to be addressed?
I’m curious about the effects that trauma has on people. What rape or assault does to the brain. How it impacts people. The truth is we don’t know much. I have learned when someone has a traumatic experience, the memory holds it differently. That can impact our daily lives and interactions and the way we see threats. I’d like to see more research on that.

Legislatively, I think people deserve more time to report a rape or something traumatic. Most of the time people don’t go to that place. They don’t press charges. They don’t bring the law into it, because they’re worried it will just traumatize them more. That’s a problem when it comes to pressing charges, because there’s a statute of limitations on these crimes.

I want there to be more education for young people. This starts when people are preteens or even earlier, so we need to talk to our children and let them know there are support systems in place for them. — Brent Lang

Dianna Goldberg May
CREDIT: Laura Mahony Photography

Dianna Goldberg May

In allegations made to The Washington Post, the researcher was among multiple women who said that political journalist Mark Halperin had harassed them or touched them inappropriately during his time at ABC News. In October, Halperin was dismissed from duties at NBC News and MSNBC as well as Showtime. He apologized for his behavior.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
One of the important aspects of the past year has been the crescendo of courageous storytelling that has put corporate America on notice that systemic abuses of power in the workplace won’t be tolerated. … Year one of #MeToo was a critical first step, galvanizing people to demand and work for institutional change. We need workplaces that will not tolerate abuses of power and that place a premium on respect, decency and fairness, so that everyone — women and men alike — can do their best work. The work for permanent change is really just beginning.

What specifically still needs to be addressed?
Any suggestion that we have solved the issues of harassment, assault and bullying in the workforce is misguided. To achieve real, permanent, institutional change, industries need to acknowledge the need for workplace reform. Perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions and companies need to be transparent in their efforts to find solutions and root out abusive behavior. … The opportunity for cultural change remains ripe, but my concern is that people will tire of this issue before we have the chance to fully understand what it takes to fundamentally change a culture. That is what Press Forward is trying to do. It will take time, but the opportunity for change is at hand. … It is important to get more men involved in this conversation. Men are critical to the success of this movement. — Brian Steinberg

Kyle-Godfrey Ryan

Ryan was among eight women who went on the record alleging veteran journalist Charlie Rose had harassed them at various points over the years. Some alleged Rose would travel with them or invite them to work at his house, and then try to lure them to see him while he showered or otherwise approached them in a
sexual manner. Rose, fired as co-anchor of “CBS This Morning,” has denied wrongdoing.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
This past year I have been awestruck by the national awareness that the #MeToo movement has drawn. This has been compounded by the tireless investigations, reporting and collective agreement that this is the time to change the narrative of our culture. Several organizations have been founded including ours, Press Forward, to provide the next steps required in this movement, and I am grateful to be part of it.”

What specifically still needs to be addressed?
Men like Charlie Rose or Les Moonves might attract a lot of attention because of the fame, influence and industry they represented, but truly their outings are inconsequential on an individual level. Women and men across our nation are enduring harassment from people who will never make the headlines. Though it is encouraging to see some people held accountable, the movement of #MeToo is about the culture that excepts and propagates harassment as a currency or byproduct of power. Many of the high-profile exits ended up looking like a math equation, with each company privately creating their own metric that weighed the number of assaults against the perceived value of the person accused. The only difference before the #MeToo movement and after is that we got to witness this exercise, and the weight of that transparency forced the hand of accountability.

The next steps of the #MeToo movement will focus on the quantifiable benefits of creating healthy, safe and collaborative work environments. It’s pretty simple: Studies prove happy people produce better work in less time with less turnover. This will not happen overnight, but fortunately there are companies like Press Forward providing education, guidance, workshops and strategies on how to bring corporations and culture into the modern world.” — Brian Steinberg

Lauren Sivan
CREDIT: Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP/REX/S

Lauren Sivan

The TV reporter was one of the first women to come forward with her personal story about Harvey Weinstein. Sivan’s account went viral after she shared that Weinstein, a complete stranger, cornered her in a restaurant to try to kiss her. When she declined, she alleges Weinstein masturbated into a potted plant.

Despite her experience with the disgraced mogul, Sivan cautions against witch hunts. She believes all men should be given a fair chance, and victims’ accusations need to be handled carefully.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
We have seen so many enormous accomplishments: Victims are being heard and believed. Predators are being called out, publicly shamed and removed from their positions when appropriate. People brave enough to come forward with stories of sexual misconduct are being less shamed, less smeared and can find support in this growing #MeToo movement. And perhaps most importantly, predatory behavior that has been going on since women entered the workplace is no longer being tolerated, celebrated or covered up.

What still needs to be addressed?
We need to put in place a fair system of due process. Right now, one accusation against someone can destroy their career, their family and life, even when proven wrong. Because of social media, reputations can be destroyed in an instant.

What’s going on with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is a perfect example. Here we have one accuser alleging a serious onetime assault. No one can corroborate her story, yet she needs to be heard and taken seriously. Kavanaugh has denied any wrongdoing. Without anyone else coming forward or any additional evidence, what do we do? It becomes he said/she said, and the stakes are very high because you can’t believe him without calling her a liar or vice versa. It’s a tough call to make without a pattern of abusive behavior or multiple women or victims coming forward. This is something we still need to grapple with to protect both victims and the wrongly accused.

Should Weinstein go to jail?
He is a monster who has destroyed lives and careers and bullied his way out of taking any responsibility. The charges against him are serious and should serve as a warning for anyone who abuses their power, whether they’re a Hollywood producer or a manager at McDonald’s — it will no longer be tolerated. — Elizabeth Wagmeister

Cassandra Smolcic
CREDIT: Courtesy of Cassandra Smolcic

Cassandra Smolcic

Smolcic was a graphic designer at Pixar from 2009 to 2014. In an essay in June, she became the first person to go on the record with allegations of gender discrimination at the company. She wrote that her bosses enabled John Lasseter’s lecherous conduct toward young women at the expense of her career. Lasseter was forced to take a sabbatical in November and apologized for making women uncomfortable. He will officially exit the company for good in December.

What has been accomplished over the past year?
By challenging the perceived dynamics between the sexes, the #MeToo movement has transformed how companies and institutions respond to impropriety in the workplace, and on a global scale. Those called out for abusing their positions of power are now being treated like liabilities, as opposed to the former model that persistently protected high-ranking men from being held accountable for their misbehavior at the expense of their predominantly female targets.

I see #MeToo as the latest successor in a series of progressive activist movements that have been captivating the American people, while simultaneously disrupting the status quo, for the last decade. Movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock and #MeToo have all worked feverishly hard to bring visibility to the unbalanced, unhealthy power dynamics of our lopsided global patriarchy.

What still needs to be addressed?
We, the self-proclaimed marginalized and disenfranchised, have been so fixated on describing our own pain points that we have failed to recognize the gaping wounds of our oppressors. I believe that “hurt people hurt people” — that no person deserves to be exiled, thrown away or given up on. Even the power-hungry tyrants of this world should be supported in their pursuit of authentic redemption, once their power has safely been taken away.

While I think it’s crucial for women and other marginalized persons to continue sharing their truths, my next big passion project is a documentary series called “his-story,” about “the men who made #MeToo history.”

In listening to the stories of our penalized, ousted and dethroned brothers — and in refusing to condemn those who have clearly lost their way — we allow space for compassion, forgiveness and lasting recovery. — Gene Maddaus

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