Harvey Weinstein and the heinous Hollywood casting couch are in sharp focus. But is it time for the Australian entertainment industry to begin unmasking its own Harveys?
One in five complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 relate to sexual harassment. The vast majority of these happen in the workplace.
When I visited the Australian Human Rights Commission website and read the checklist for what is legally defined as sexual harassment. According to that checklist, I’ve been sexually harassed for the majority of my life.
I don’t say this to play the victim-card but to add a voice to the chorus of women who are standing up bravely across the world, right now. I understand I’ll be accused of turning trauma into clickbait, much like I was when I wrote about my rape for The Daily Telegraph back in 2016.
Because women who speak out about sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment always lose. They lose their reputation. They lose opportunities. They lose economically.
The New York Times broke the Weinstein story and has continued flying the flag, publishing powerful opinion pieces by film director, Sarah Polley and political correspondent, Maureen Dowd.
However, would this publication whose readership mainly consists of liberal-minded, successful progressives be as interested in the sexual harassment of women of minorities or lower socio-economic standing?
And would the trauma of the lower classes working in non-showbiz industries be deemed worthy of publication in such a newspaper? I think not.
Harveys are everywhere. They litter the streets, the shops and the bars. They litter the cemeteries and parliaments. They litter conglomerates. They litter the entertainment industry.
I came in contact with my first ‘Harvey’ when I was a just teen-girl who read Cosmopolitan and watched Beverly Hills 90210.
I was 15 and wanted to be an actress.
My parents took me around to the television channels — to drop off my resume and acting headshot.
At one of the channels, I was introduced to a director. For the purpose of this article, let’s call him ‘Harvey’.
Harvey said he could use me in several TV commercials. He was in his early 50s with white hair and a beard. He had a fatherly aura to him. I trusted him implicitly — as did my Mum and Dad.
Harvey kept his promise and used me for two TV commercials and one infomercial in which I was paid award rate.
As he drove me back to my parent’s house after the final day of filming. He told me that the next female role he cast would also be mine. I was elated. My acting journey had begun.
The following week the phone rang and it was him:
“Hi Vanessa, I’ve booked a hotel for this Friday.”
I was so naive and innocent — the penny didn’t drop. I thought maybe we were shooting a TV commercial at the hotel.
And then he continued: “I’d like to fuck you.”
I was a virgin. But it wasn’t about my virginity. It was about the disappointment and shame that was setting in my bones. I genuinely believed that he thought I had talent. I was devastated.
‘I won’t be doing that”. I said firmly.
“Okay Vanessa. I’ll send you a copy of your TV commercials.” He then hung up.
A few days later, a courier arrived with a package. Harvey had returned my acting headshot and resume. He had also provided me with three VHS copies of my TV commercials.
This was my introduction to the Australian entertainment industry and I’ve continued to deal with Harvey after Harvey for the last 20 years.
I think it’s wonderful that Hollywood stars with clout are speaking out about the casting couch and the sexual abuse of women.
But let’s spare a thought for actresses around the world who are unemployed or working on independent and low/mid budget productions and don’t have the platform or money needed to fight a ‘Harvey’.