By Allie Volpe
November 22, 2017
In the wake of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, many in Hollywood have spoken out to share their own experiences of harassment from powerful men in the industry, including comedian Louis C.K., actor Kevin Spacey, producer Brett Ratner, and television host Charlie Rose. On Sunday, Transparent actor Jeffrey Tambor released a statement denying allegations that he had sexually harassed his co-star Trace Lysette and a former personal assistant. He also said he would not be returning to the show for a fifth season.
“I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue,” Tambor said in the statement, reported by Deadline . “Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.” But some advocates say this statement from Tambor—and ones coming from other accused harassers—largely sidesteps responsibility and willfully misconstrues the definitions of assault and harassment.
“That line stuck out to me because a lot of times you have to look at intent versus impact,” Brian Pacheco, director of communications at Safe Horizon, an organization that aids victims of domestic violence, child abuse, rape and sexual assault tells Broadly. “A lot of times folks who commit [assault say] ‘That wasn’t my intent’ or ‘That’s just how it is,’ but they don’t understand the impact on how that feels to survivors. I think a lot of times people hide behind that. ‘I thought that it was consensual,’ so that’s a form of victim blaming or taking the onus off the abuser and placing it on something else.”
Both C.K. and Tambor’s statements admit some flaw or wrongdoing, but ultimately do not accept culpability for the claims brought against them. For these men, being “admired,” “ill-tempered,” “volatile,” or ignorant have become suitable replacements for accepting responsibility for your actions.
Spacey’s apology, too, was met with criticism for diverting the conversation away from his inappropriate behavior. The actor, who allegedly assaulted Anthony Rapp when he was 14 years old in 1986, responded to the allegations by brushing the incident off as “inappropriate drunken behavior.” Spacey then ended his statement by coming out as gay, diverting the nature of the situation and attempting to win favor with the public.
Pacheco says he’s not surprised by the language utilized in these apologies because most people accused of abuse grapple with the way they perceive themselves and their morals. When Simmons was recently accused of sexually assaulting model Keri Claussen Khalighi when she was 17 years old in 1991, he responded with a statement, writing that “abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being” because he has two daughters.
“Sometimes they may even see themselves as innately good people so the narrative they have of themselves is ‘I could never do something like this,’” Pacheco explains. “That’s not a reason to commit harassment, and we need to look at the culture and how we keep abusers accountable but [also] look at how we’re raising young boys and young men.”
For an apology that doesn’t minimize responsibility, those accused should not focus on the “good” they’ve done in their lives and careers, Pacheco says, and instead address that regardless of celebrity, these acts of abuse do occur. “Being a respected or well-liked community member” doesn’t exempt someone from committing harmful acts, Pacheco explains. Those accused should examine their power and the circumstances that led them to abuse it, and pledge not to let it happen again.