Anger Grows Over Reports of Sex Abuse by Producer Harvey Weinstein

13 October, 2017

The organization that awards Oscars for best movies is deciding what to do with Harvey Weinstein. The movie producer has been accused of sexual abuse from many women, including well-known Hollywood actors.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences runs the Academy Awards, or Oscars. In a statement, it said the accusations against Weinstein are "abhorrent." It said the meeting this weekend will decide what action it will take.

The New York Times newspaper and The New Yorker magazine reported many accusations of sexual abuse against Weinstein. He produced Oscars-winning movies such as "Shakespeare in Love," "Pulp Fiction," and "Good Will Hunting."

Among those accusing Weinstein of sexual abuse were movie stars including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rosanna Arquette.

Jolie told the New York Times that in the late 1990s, during the release of the movie, "Playing by Heart," Weinstein made unwanted advances on her in a hotel room. Jolie said she rejected the advances.

"I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did," Jolie told the Times.

Angelina Jolie attends screening of Netflix's
Angelina Jolie attends screening of Netflix's"First They Killed My Father" in New York City.

The Times reported that Weinstein or his representatives had settled with eight women .

After the Times story, Weinstein was dismissed by the board of his production company, the Weinstein Company.

In the New Yorker, two actresses, Asia Argento and Lucia Evans, accused Weinstein of raping them. A third actress made the same accusation, but chose not to be identified.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein said he believes all his relationships with women were "consensual," meaning they were carried out with permission.

The spokeswoman said Weinstein has begun getting professional help and "is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance."

Other powerful men also accused of sexual abuse

The accusations against Weinstein are far from the first against powerful men.

At Fox News, former chairman Roger Ailes and popular TV host Bill O'Reilly were forced to step down after reports of unwanted sexual advances by Fox employees.

Bill Cosby, a longtime television and movie star, has been charged with dozens of acts of sexual assault, dating back decades.

Former President Bill Clinton sexual relationship with a White House intern in the 1990s led to congressional moves to remove him from office, though they were unsuccessful.

The accusations against Weinstein brought him criticism from actors who worked on his movies, and even from politicians he had backed financially.

Here is what actor Ben Affleck said: "I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades." He said some of the recent charges of assault "made me sick."

Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who received financial help from Weinstein for her campaigns, said she was "shocked" and angered by the reports.

And former President Barack Obama, who also benefited from Weinstein's political support, said, "Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports about Harvey Weinstein."

Why did it take so long?

Some wonder why it took so long for people to come forward with reports of sexual advances and attacks from years ago.

Caroline Heldman is a politics professor at Occidental College in California. She has worked with women who say they were victims of sexual attacks by Bill Cosby.

Heldman said, "It's difficult to report sexual harassment and sexual assault because oftentimes the victim will not be believed. We live in a culture that doesn't take these crimes seriously for the most part, and we tend to blame the victim."

Some people who report sexual attacks do so "at great personal cost," including loss of work, Heldman said.

Heldman believes all the news reports about Harvey Weinstein might encourage other victims of sexual violence to come forward. And she believes this worries other powerful people in the entertainment industry.

"Hollywood is full of Harvey Weinsteins," she said.

Jeremy Zimmer heads the United Talent Agency, which represents performers and writers in movies, theater, television and video games. The trade magazine Variety reported that Zimmer recently sent a message to UTA employees sharply criticizing Weinstein and saying sexual harassment will not be accepted at UTA.

He urged victims of unwanted sexual actions to come forward, promising their reports will be taken seriously.

"Fear and silence is never the will be heard," he wrote.

I'm Caty Weaver.

And I'm Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for Learning English based on reports by VOA News and other sources. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

abhorrent - adj. deserving strong disapproval

advances - n. efforts to start a sexual relationship

assault - n. the crime of trying or threatening to hurt someone physically

decades - n. multiple periods of 10 years

intimidate - v. to make someone afraid

manipulate - v. to deal with or control someone, often in an unfair or selfish way

disgust - v. to cause (someone) to feel very annoyed and angry

harassment - n. aggressive pressure to do something unwanted

tend - v. used to describe what often happens or what someone often does or is likely to do