THIS weekend, serious and disturbing allegations were brought to light against a prominent figure in the entertainment world, comedian Russell Brand.
The nature of the allegations is incredibly serious. Women have spoken out about alleged sexual abuse, rape and forcible control.
Listening to the harrowing reports and looking at the comments on social media, two things become clear: how difficult it can be to talk about abuse, especially when the perpetrator has much more power than you, and that the criminal justice system doesn’t work for people , who say they are survivors of horrific abuse.
Working with survivors at Women’s Aid, we know first-hand how difficult it is to speak out and talk about the abuse they have experienced.
Currently they have to do this in a world where not only are they not believed, but the perpetrator is also not held accountable.
Across society, it is unacceptable to know that women today are captivated by fear and warn each other about men who may pose a danger to them, while at the same time living in the knowledge that the system is rigged in favor of this very man, and that is probably the case that he will not be held responsible for his behavior.
Some may argue that we have come a long way. Coercive control has been a recognized crime for several years, domestic violence is being talked about more openly, while the horrific murder of Sarah Everard and the shocking revelations about the crimes committed by David Carrick have shone a light on corruption within the police ranks.
And yet the criminal justice system still fails to ensure justice for survivors – and many women simply do not trust the police or court systems. The data speaks for itself. According to Rape Crisis, in 2022, fewer than two in 100 rapes recorded by police resulted in a charge, let alone a conviction.
Given such sad statistics, is it surprising that women remain silent?
Especially women who are accused of being assaulted by a famous and successful man, as alleged in the investigation The Sunday TimesHe “cornered and threatened” a woman after he realized she had made allegations against him.
How could a woman in this situation express her opinion if she knew that she would not be believed and that her career and life would most likely suffer the consequences if she did so?
Of all the allegations made against Russell Brand this weekend, which he has strenuously denied, for me it is Alice’s report on Dispatches that particularly highlights the inadequacy of our justice system.
Alice says she was 16 when she met Brand and began a relationship with him. At 16, she can legally consent to a sexual relationship, even if it is with a powerful man 14 years her senior.
Alice says Brand taught her how best to lie to her parents when she met him and says he forbade her from talking about the relationship with her friends, which made her feel isolated. She now says she is too young to consent to a relationship with an adult man and that the law should be changed to protect people under 18.
Controlling and manipulative behavior can be clearly seen in Alice’s claims about the relationship, and she also makes claims about it sexual assault. And yet, because she was over 16 and consenting, there was nothing legally that could have been done to protect her or countless others who might find themselves in a similar situation, charmed by a charismatic, powerful man.
In addition to the judiciary, we must hold something else accountable – namely the television industry, which is said to have made this situation possible.
As with so many allegations relating to men in the entertainment industry.
Why was this allowed to continue if it was actually known? Why haven’t companies done more to investigate these rumors and sometimes outright accusations?
Six years after the #MeToo movement, how can we still be in a place where the entertainment industry seems to do nothing when it allegedly hears about such behavior from its talent?
Are we still in a place where inaction is viewed as neutrality, as opposed to the reality – inaction tolerates misogyny and allows abuse to thrive? This weekend’s revelations were shocking, disturbing and triggered horrific past experiences for countless survivors.
But what perhaps worries us most is how similar they appear to all the works that came before them.
Feeling safe at home, at work and on the street is a basic human right.
Why are women still denied this, especially given the fame and power it brings?
What needs to happen for things to really change?