It takes a great amount of courage to speak up against someone who has harmed you. More when its sexual assault, and even more still when the abuse was at the hands of a well-loved and prominent figure in their chosen field. Finding the tremendous amount of courage to tell your truth, only to have it reduced, has to be disheartening and heartbreaking. It's a reminder that we live in a society that would rather protect abusers, especially if said abuser holds a higher value than those they are abusing. In the time of Time’s Up, #MeToo, and #MuteRKelly, more sexual assault victims are speaking up and their abusers are facing some consequences for their actions; however, the consequences often seem to be short-lived.
John Lasseter, former Pixar chief, was ousted by the company after several sexual harassment allegations were made against him. He has recently found a home with Skydance Animation, despite being let go due to misconduct in his last position. Not only are the optics of this terrible, but it's a cruel reminder that there is a tremendous lack of empathy or genuine care for sexual assault victims.
In the case of Skydance Media, it's also a reminder that our society doesn’t hold a ton of stock in the claims that victims make; it's been reported that Skydance hired a third-party company to investigate the allegations made against Lasseter while he was at Pixar. It's as infuriating as it is laughable that in a letter to the staff at Skydance Media, CEO David Ellison wrote that they would never minimize anyone's subjective views on behavior. The letter then goes on to say how his mistakes have been recognized and that Lasseter has learned from his workplace behavior after spending a year pondering it. Time will tell what improvements to his behavior that he had allegedly been exhibiting for numerous years could have been improved upon in such a short time of reflection. It's hard to believe any real rehabilitation has occurred in such a short time frame. Regardless, the message sent by Skydance Media hiring of Lasseter is discouraging.
How can any real progress be made if there are no truly impactful consequences for those who abuse their power by violating those who are often powerless against them? Forgiveness is one thing, but allowing these individuals right back into the spaces from which they were so recently removed feels more like forgetting. Not only is a message being sent to those who are usually helpless in these situations that they are not valuable, but it's reassuring to those that have skeletons in their closet that even if they are caught the consequences aren’t long-lasting.
There should be no place in society for men like John Lasseter, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., R. Kelly, Johnny Depp or the numerous others who have abused their positions of power. Nor should there be such quickness to dismiss victims and forgive these individuals. There needs to be a serious introspective look at how we value what these men offer versus the safety of the individuals they encounter. There is nothing subjective about any form of abuse and believing so minimizes the worth of victims.
If we truly want to maximize the efforts being made during the time of #MeToo and Time’s Up, we really need to consider how we continue to show victims that we’re more empathetic to their assaulters than we are to them. But when the country is being run by a man who is extremely proud of grabbing women by their genitals because he feels he can, there isn’t much of a bar to rise above. We have to do better by victims, period.