Why don't women come forward after sexual assault? This comment nailed it.

"Why didn't she say anything sooner?"

It's the question that frustrates sexual assault prevention advocates and discredits the victims who bravely come forward after they've been targeted.

Stars Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow — who both disclosed to The New York Times they'd been sexually harassed by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein years ago — are among the latest women now having to trudge through a predictable wave of victim-blaming following their disclosures.

Gwyneth Paltrow (left) and Angelina Jolie. Photos by Jason Kempin/Getty Images and Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images.


Paltrow and Jolie's descriptions of abuse follow an explosive report in the Times on Oct. 5, 2017, that chronicled decades of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Weinstein — a man with seemingly boundless sway and power in the filmmaking world.

Sadly, Paltrow and Jolie were met with various forms of the question. "Why didn't the women of Hollywood stop him?" sprouted up immediately in corners of the internet.

One viral comment on the Times article, however, nailed why questioning a victim's actions after surviving sexual harassment or assault does so much harm.  

"It is disheartening to see so many comments already blaming women for not 'speaking up,'" the reader, identified as "K" from Brooklyn, began.

"Please count yourself lucky that you've never had your career on the line based on whether or not you sleep with your boss," they continued. "It has nothing to do with fame and riches; this happens to women making minimum wage in retail as well as women who fought through it to become CEOs."

"K" continued, giving context as to why it's often very difficult and complicated for survivors to speak up after being abused (emphasis added):

"The psychology behind this kind of thing is not that complex, so please spare a moment to consider: Not only are these women made to feel humiliated and embarrassed, but in some cases if they had come forward, they not only would never work again, they also would be seen as whiners and 'too sensitive.' Both Jolie and Paltrow fended him off. Imagine if they made a big stink about it. They would have been ripped apart in the media! 'Oh for goodness' sake, a dirty old man came on to you. You rejected him and moved on, why the fuss?' But, of course, now we must insist on blaming them for 'perpetuating' Weinstein's behavior. Please."

As "K" described, victims often stay silent because they're vulnerable to the power abusers have over the situation; victims could lose their job or see their credibility attacked, for instance. These kinds of power dynamics — whether it be in Hollywood or not — play a big role in why victims stay silent.

Harvey Weinstein. Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images.

For victims of sexual harassment, the threat to their livelihood does not end after a single encounter with an abuser. If a young, less accomplished Paltrow had spoken out against a figure like Weinstein, would he have irreversibly tarnished her reputation? Would he have planted unforgiving stories about her in the media? Would she have ever worked again? These are the sorts of threats victims weigh before speaking out. A predator's hold on a victim's career or reputation creates a culture of silence.

The commenter also used Brad Pitt's involvement in the story to note a sexist double standard in how we see victims of sexual assault.

If we're blaming Paltrow and Jolie for not speaking up sooner, why aren't we blaming Brad Pitt as well?

Pitt, who'd been romantically involved with both Paltrow and Jolie at different points in his career, reportedly knew about Weinstein's predatory behavior, according to The Daily Beast, yet he worked with Weinstein on two films following the disturbing encounters. The fact that he's largely been left out of the discussion says a lot about how we view victims of sexual assault, particularly when they're women.

"K" went on to say that the attitudes of blaming women for their own persecution are astounding: "Note that the comments have not centered around Brad Pitt's not saying anything, though he knew about it with not one but TWO romantic partners...It is not the women's job to monitor men's behavior."

Weintein (left) and Pitt (right) at the premiere of  "Inglourious Basterds" in 2009. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

The assertions made by "K," whose comment drew over 3,000 likes and a long thread of supportive replies, aren't just steeped in opinion; advocates argue sexual harassment is rarely just about sex — asserting power plays an instrumental role.

"Most frequently, survivors of sexual harassment, exploitation and violence delay making an official report of what has happened out of fear of how others will respond," Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, explained to HuffPost in March 2017. "From retaliation by the perpetrator to gossip, dismissive responses and outright victim blaming by colleagues, friends and family."

We need to stop asking "Why didn't she say anything?" and instead wonder "Why aren't we doing more to support survivors?"

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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