by Maureen Ryan
I told a lie in 2015. A lie to save my life.
I wrote a post in May of that year telling people I was taking two months off to deal with family issues. It wasn’t entirely a falsehood. My father had died about a year earlier and my mother was dying (she passed away last fall). The last few years were a difficult, grindingly draining time that changed me enormously.
Still, my parents’ illnesses and deaths didn’t break me. The television executive who sexually assaulted me in 2014 broke me.
And that was the real reason I took that leave in 2015: I needed to heal, mentally and spiritually, and I had to think about whether I even wanted to stay in this industry.
I look around at what occurred with Harvey Weinstein (and Cosby, and Ailes, and so on), and I have agonized over whether I made the right decision.
In the summer of 2015, I chose to stay, and to keep covering the art form I love as best as I can. But the last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult, for assault survivors and everyone else. Part of the anguish I’ve felt comes from wondering if I’m feeding a monstrous beast that can’t be fixed.
You might not get much further in this piece; there have been a lot of survivor narratives in the news. It’s tough to process them all, so I understand if you’re at your limit.
But before you check out, I want you to know this: Based on what I have experienced and what I have heard from countless friends and colleagues, there are men at manylevels in this industry (and others) who abuse their power and break people. These men, at much lower levels than Weinstein, do this because they feel like it. They either don’t care about the consequences, which are unlikely to arrive in the vast majority of instances, or they want to see if they can get away with it. Very often, they do.
Harvey Weinstein, it is clear, is a monster, a sociopathic ogre, and I applaud the journalists who dragged the full scope of his reign of terror into the light of day, and survivors who have spoken out will have my heart forever. I send my love and deep admiration to them all.
But Harvey is not the whole story. There are many Harveys, with varying amounts of influence, at every level in this industry.
The temptation to abuse whatever status a man has attained in this power-obsessed industry is ever-present. For some, taking what they want from others is part of what they think is the benefits package. Even if they’re not full-on sociopaths, too many feel free to ignore boundaries, to go too far, and lie to themselves about what they do. Along the way, they inflict countless kinds of damage on other human beings.