The allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein may not qualify as domestic assault but during Domestic Assault Awareness Month in October, the allegations help emphasize a systemic problem with assault against women and men by those in power.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines domestic assault as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.
Domestic abusers want power and control over the victim. In Weinstein's case, the allegations say Weinstein used his power to try and control the actions of victims. Victims allege he used his power to threaten and manipulate their careers or future careers in Hollywood.
Whether it is domestic abuse or the allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against Weinstein, the abuser counts on several things. The abuser counts on the abuse being strong enough to maintain control. The abuser will often count on his or hers position of perceived authority within the family or his or her reputation in the neighborhood, community or at work to help him or her continue the abuse. The abuser also counts on the victim to be too afraid to seek help, or too conditioned to believe she deserves the abuse to seek help or simply unable to seek help.
With the Weinstein allegations, Weinstein would have counted on his power to protect him. He would have counted on others in Hollywood to protect him because of his power. And if the allegations are true, even widespread rumors of Weinstein's abuse didn't cause many of Hollywood's successful and powerful people to act.
Silence from others is also what abusers want. They want others to fear what will happen if we call the cops when we hear shouting and screaming next door. Abusers want silence instead of questions about why your co-worker called in sick again today. Abusers want silence instead of a neighbor noticing that the kids never seem to be outside and don't ever speak.
Unfortunately, abusers seem to get a lot of what they want. Although research completed by the Bureau of Justice from 2003 to 2012 shows the rate of domestic violence in U.S. households declined 63 percent in that period, domestic violence is still a problem.
In 2015 in Minnesota, at least 22 women died from domestic violence. At least nine family members/friends/interveners were murdered. At least three men died from domestic violence, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women said. In 2016 at least 18 women died from domestic violence and at least three family members/friends/interveners were murdered, the Coalition said.
Each year, more than 1,800 persons in the U.S. are killed by their intimate partners and about 50 percent of these homicides are committed with firearms, a Sept. 19 online story by the Annals of Internal Medicine said.
And now, allegations of sexual abuse and assault against Weinstein remind us that in a place that is often thought of as progressive in attitudes toward women and toward power in general, attitudes toward violence against women hasn't shifted much at all. Weinstein would have counted on even the elite of Hollywood, those with plenty of money and well established careers, to look away and to ignore rumors. Domestic abusers would like that same attitude from their co-workers, friends, family and community.
Victims deserve better.