While the allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein are disturbing, the reactions from people in the industry seem to show they aren’t entirely surprised.
So how does a man who is constantly in the public eye, with accusations that span decades, evade scrutiny for so long?
Reputation management expert Eric Schiffer told IJR the enabling and prevention of this kind of behavior comes down to basically one thing: power. Who has it, who doesn’t, and how are they using it?
“In Harvey’s position, he had immense power with people that were considered to be icons of sexuality, and I think, had he not been in that position, had he been in a different industry, things would have revealed themselves far earlier,” he said.
While Weinstein is in the spotlight right now, his behavior is far from isolated. Schiffer noted that Hollywood’s history is “steeped in harassment of women”:
“This affects others in power. This is, I think, the cocktail, that can affect people in power unless they’re emotionally mature and aware of the narcotic-like effects that can play upon the roles that they’re leading.”
However, though power could become an Achilles heel of those who wield it, he told IJR it can be the very thing to help curb this behavior from not only continuing to happen, but happen in silence.
“The more voices of power in an industry that condemn this behavior, the more people that are fearful of implications are going to come out of their safe harbor and share their story and perhaps report,” he explained. “That’s a good thing.”
Since the Weinstein scandal erupted, Schiffer said he’s seen “signs” of people in power coming forward but questioned the effect it will have in the long term.
“I think a lot of people in power that may be doing this kind of conduct are probably freaking out right now,” he said. “But the problem is, in a month or two a lot of this is going to be forgotten.”
As the news cycle moves on and the focus shifts to something new, Schiffer predicted that the fear people in power are feeling right now “may dissipate” and the behavior will continue.
“Unfortunately, sometimes communicating to people who are already in those positions, you’re not gonna be heard,” he explained. “Not until a white-hot gauntlet drops on you and you began to bleed out do you begin to take things seriously.”
While it’s disheartening to recognize that something that once exposed such a troubling trend will eventually be old news, it doesn’t mean there isn’t more that can be done.
Part of the reason sexual harassment and assault is perpetuated in Hollywood is that traditionally, women are looking toward men for jobs. Schiffer noted that for all practical purposes, to be a “star,” you have to appear in films and get paid. So if that’s your dream, you don’t want to “inflame those who can make it happen.”
But what if women continued to move from in front of the camera to behind it?
“Statistics show that these types of situation happen far more involving men than women,” Schiffer told IJR and noted what a change in traditional power roles could yield. “[If] you change the power dynamic and women are in more power roles, then statistics should play out and you will lower the number of instances.”
The ultimate goal is to make sure no one is ever the victim of sexual assault or harassment, but according to Schiffer, when someone in power isn’t used to hearing “no” and is only accustomed to being told, “yes,” their vision of reality can be skewed.
So is it time to give up and say, “Oh, well. I guess, that’s just how it is”? Of course not. Schiffer explained that one of the ways to create change is to give people the tools to empower themselves, which he claims starts when we’re children:
“This can be a teachable moment. For boys and girls because both have the opportunity to be in positions of power and both could be working for those in power.”
Therefore, parents should educate their kids on situations such as the ones Weinstein is accused of “so they can understand how to handle themselves within both scenarios in a way that can keep themselves and those around them safe.”
In addition to educating future generations, Schiffer suggested that an independent office or company could be established so proper investigations could be conducted without fear of repercussions for reporting inappropriate behavior.
One of the most important parts of the checks system: it can’t be controlled by the person who has the power.
When it comes to Weinstein’s own future, Schiffer cited O.J. Simpson, whom he believes will never recover from his past, and Roman Polanski, who continues to make films from afar, and chalked it up to having to wait and see what happens.
Watch Schiffer’s separate, full interview below with FoxDC5 News: