The unprecedented conversation about sexual assault in Hollywood continues to expand as the attention fell on Kevin Spacey after actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him at a party when he was 14 years old. Since September an unparalleled number of perpetrators in Hollywood are facing repercussions for their actions and are being held accountable by their very own community. Spacey was no exception to the changing status quo as he was axed off House of Cards, replaced by Christopher Plummer in an upcoming film and removed as a global ambassador of the non-profit “Best Buddies International”. So far 15 victims of Spacey have publicly come forward to share their stories. The revelations surrounding Kevin Spacy, specifically his statements have been problematic and extremely damaging for assault victims and the LGBTQ+ community.
Harry Dreyfuss, claimed that in 2008 Spacey made sexual advances towards the then 18-year-old. In Dreyfuss’ guest column in Buzzfeed he revealed how he minimized his own trauma “I spent the next nine years telling people the story at parties for laughs.” This statement reveals how victims learn to dismiss sexual harassment and minimize it to cope with how society brushes off stories of sexual assault. Victims are often told that it could be worse or that they somehow brought it on ourselves. The truth is sharing a story of trauma or abuse is often a dark and lonely experience when the people you value most brush it off as if it doesn’t matter or shouldn’t be causing you as much pain as it is. Victims worry that if they come forward with a story of sexual assault the story will be dismissed or minimized. Spacey responded to first accuser Anthony Rapps’ story in a Twitter post defending his actions; “if I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour.” This dismissal of assault as a forgotten drunken act is alarming and damaging. Being drunk is not an excuse to violate another person in any way and the insinuation that it is a valid excuse is blatant victim blaming and insulting to victims everywhere.
Towards the end of Spacey’s statement, he decided to follow his ‘apology’ by coming out as a gay man. In his statement Spacey says that he wants to deal with his behaviour “openly and honestly” and that starts with examining his behaviour. An apology for pedophilia does not belong in the statement where someone comes out as a gay man. The linking of homosexuality to pedophilia attempts to distance Spacey from his actions in an attempt to distance his own agency and imply that his homosexuality is responsible for his actions and that he as an individual is not. This s a common tactic utilized by perpetrators when they insinuate that their sexuality is uncontrollable and not within their realm of responsibility. The truth is there are no parallels between being a homosexual and a pedophile as there are no parallels between being male and having no control over sexual urges. Furthermore, when Spacey comes out his choice of words are problematic. Spacey says “I choose to live my life as a gay man”, this illustrates the idea that Homosexuality is a choice. Kevin Spacey may be a gay man, he is also a pedophile. Homosexuality is never an excuse for pedophilia or assault. Nor is being under the influence, being turned on or not remembering. Queerness is not a Band-Aid to cover up allegations of sexual abuse as Spacey used it in his statement. Equating pedophilia to being gay is a strategic attempt in many ways gather sympathy from the public and renegotiate his responsibility.
The common phrases we hear in response to sexual assault victims discourages others from coming forward as they see how other victims are commonly shamed and shunned. Therefore, many victims chose not to come forward. Common responses such as “it could have been worse” and “you put yourself in this situation” to excuses such as Spacey’s description of his actions as “deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour” are all examples of the gaslighting, manipulation, victim blaming and minimization that victims receive. Examining these allegations and Spacey’s statement we can become more aware of the oppressive language and systemic issues that reproduce damaging stereotypes about sexual assault victims and perpetrators. Looking at Spacey’s statement we can see evidence of a perpetrator skillfully attempt to excuse their actions at any cost while blaming his pedophilia on his secret homosexuality.
By Emily Colero
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