Actress Ashley Judd has — either intentionally or not — opened up a veritable can of worms as a result of her recent revelation that she was sexually harassed by a Hollywood executive. According to Ashley Judd, the studio exec invited her back to his hotel room when she was a younger actress so she could watch him shower. At the time, she was in the midst of filming Kiss the Girls, and the executive was allegedly from a rival studio.
“I was sexually harassed by one of our industry’s most famous, admired-slash-reviled bosses…and here I was, a declared feminist,” she told Variety in their “Power of Women” issue, according to E! Online. “I had completed a minor in what was then called women’s studies…And yet I did not recognize at the time what was happening to me. It took years before I could evaluate that incident and realize that there was something incredibly wrong and illegal about it.”
Ashley Judd said that she had been invited repeatedly to the studio mogul’s home under the pretense of discussing movie roles. The situation apparently continued to escalate until she was invited to the home to watch him take a shower. Ashley Judd noted that she should have been quite aware what was happening to her at the time, as she felt empowered and she knew she was smart. In processing the idea that she was, indeed, sexually harassed, Ashley Judd said it took her quite some time to come to the realization that something untoward had occurred.
“I beat myself up for a while,” Ashley Judd admitted. “This is another part of the process. We internalize the shame. It really belongs to the person who is the aggressor. And so later, when I was able to see what happened, I thought: Oh god, that’s wrong. That’s sexual harassment. That’s illegal. I was really hard on myself because I didn’t get out of it by saying, ‘OK motherf***r, I’m calling the police.'”
Ashley Judd is no stranger, unfortunately, to crimes of a sexual nature. She has been very open about her prior experiences with incest and rape, and told Time that there should be greater focus on the emotional aftermath of rape for women when it is depicted through the media. Ashley Judd also noted that it is the concern about retaliation that prevents women from speaking out about sexual harassment and other crimes of a sexual nature.
According to Violence Against Women Learning Network, those victims who are sexually harassed think that if they disclose the crime, everyone in their immediate community will be aware that harassment occurred. Another possibility is that the victim’s complaint of a crime occurring will be unheard by supervisors and management. Of course, retaliation and reprisal continue to be concerns, particularly when the alleged harasser is in a position of power at the workplace.
For Ashley Judd, though, violence against women is the most significant issue. In an op-ed for Mic that followed the blowback Judd received following a tweet she posted about some 2015 March Madness plays she witnessed, the actress chronicled the online violence she endured and openly discussed the various times she was sexually assaulted and molested.
“I am a survivor of sexual assault, rape and incest,” she said. “I am greatly blessed that in 2006, other thriving survivors introduced me to recovery. I seized it. My own willingness, partnered with a simple kit of tools, has empowered me to take the essential odyssey from undefended and vulnerable victim to empowered survivor.”
Ashley Judd went on to describe the various tweets that had targeted her and various violent acts that were described within those tweets. She noted that in spite of her celebrity status, her experience was by no means unique.
“What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet,” Ashley Judd explained. “Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.”
Now, though, she has come forward to chronicle a series of incidents in which she was sexually harassed — made a victim for a range of reasons that likely all have to do with a power imbalance and a general belief that women are there to service men instead of collaborate on an even playing field with them — and there are those who would question who the harasser was. For now, Ashley Judd has remained silent, as she should; she is living her authentic truth now and it matters only to her and to the alleged perpetrator what happened, and not to anyone else. Ashley Judd also acknowledged that men and women engage in this sort of behavior with each other on a regular basis, but there is hope.
“We’re all part of the problem, but we’re all part of the solution,” Ashley Judd said, according to E! Online.
[Photos by Andrew Toth and JP Yim/Getty Images]