Sexual Assault is in the news again and this time, it’s Russell Brand’s turn in the barrel. We barely had time to register Danny Masterson’s (That 70’s Show) 30-year sentence for multiple rapes twenty years ago. He joins a long list of rich, entitled men who are used to taking what they want. Men in positions of power who are accused of using that power to intimidate and abuse women. Harvey Weinstein might be the most famous but this is an illustrious and notorious group. It’s infuriating that it seems everyone knew but nobody said anything in every case.

Men like Weinstein, threatened women with their careers if they refused to have sex with him.

There are many ways to use your status to coerce people into doing things they don’t really want to do. It now makes sense why so many young actresses sort of just disappeared. Mira Sorvino, Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra are just three examples of rising stars just vanishing. They were all accused of being “crazy” and unstable and, therefore, unreliable. It was disgusting.

Roman Polanski fled the US after he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl, to avoid prosecution and jail. He didn’t even deny it happened but blamed puritanical North American values for not understanding their encounter. Forty years later, Polanski is still a celebrated director, making films and winning awards. Fellow celebrities like Tilda Swinson, Debra Winger and Whoopi Goldberg defended him, using terms like “his so-called crime”. He makes beautiful movies and THE GUY RAPED A LITERAL CHILD. What is going on here?

Brand in 2006 when the first allegation against him was made before he became a new age, anti-establishment guru darling of the right

If you have followed Brand

It is not shocking to think that a former drug/sex addict might be guilty of sexual impropriety. His entire “brand” (pun intended) was formed around taking a ton of drugs and indulging in rampant sexual behaviour. Who are the people blindly defending him? Not only defending him but insisting that his accusers are lying. Why? Why would people think that a man who has spent his life oversharing about his voracious sexual escapades and drug use is incapable of coercion?

Brand has left Katy Perry and his performing days behind and refashioned himself as a wellness guru who spouts all manner of conspiracy theories. Unable to leave a public persona behind, he joined the world of dudes who think they are smarter than everyone else and made a podcast.

Now, married with a couple of daughters, he spends his days railing against the media, all government and covid. Throwing around lofty ideas about “transpolitical and spiritual interpretation of life”, he clearly likes to hear himself talk. When guys like Andrew Tate, Jordan Peterson and Alex Jones are on your side, you are doing something very wrong.

Newly spiritual or not, I am not sure we should be taking life advice from this guy. Using his ability to talk a million miles an hour, he crafts smart-sounding monologues. Despite swearing he would never tell his followers what to think, he proceeds to do just that. He still talks fondly of his first sexual experience with a beautiful 17-year-old prostitute (he was 16) in Thailand, courtesy of his dad. Pretty sure the child prostitute doesn’t remember that day as fondly.

Dude bragged about bedding multiple women per day

Bragging about his prior sex addiction, Brand told Big Issue magazine: “I was having sex with different women three, four, five times a day. It was bacchanalian. In Ireland, nine in one evening.” Bacchanalian is not often a word one associates with non-stop consensual encounters with women who are your equals. Sounds fishy but hey, what do I know? If Brand weren’t famous, I doubt he would have access to nine chicks a night. Fact, itself, implies the knowledge that the sex isn’t because you are all that and a bag of chips. He is rumoured to have preyed on groupies and fans, again, much like our own Jian Gomeshi.

So, why do people want to believe men like this over women who claim sexual abuse at their hands? It’s not like they are accusing their youth pastor….. oh wait, bad example. Is it because we don’t like women? Do we think that unless you are a 12-year-old virgin, you had to have asked for it, at least a little? Do young women who look up to celebrities so much that they let themselves be manipulated deserve what they get?

It doesn’t actually matter what Brand’s perception of his thousands of sexual encounters were like at this point.

An open secret was that he a predatory dirty birdy according to his own booky wooky and the people who worked for him. He has a history of making women very uncomfortable and relishing in that ability. At the end of the day, famous, powerful men make other men a lot of money. Seemingly, it appears that turning a blind eye is often a financial decision.

Despite increasing awareness and numerous initiatives aimed at prevention and support for survivors, the prevalence of sexual assault remains alarmingly high. We constantly seek to shed light on the pervasiveness of this issue, exploring its various facets and delving into the available statistics and studies. We always hope that things are improving. The hope is that the more we talk openly about these uncomfortable situations, the less they will occur. That’s the hope, anyways.

The Disturbing Numbers

Multiple studies and surveys have consistently pointed to high rates of sexual assault. According to data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some point in their lives. In Canada, a survey conducted by Statistics Canada revealed that approximately one in three women experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.

Don’t forget that these numbers represent only reported cases. Actual figures are certainly significantly higher given. We know that many instances of sexual assault go unreported due to stigma, fear, or mistrust of the criminal justice system. Most women tell a friend first but few take it any further.

sexual assault

An Irish CSO study on sexual violence found that 52% of women reported experiencing a sexual assault in their lifetime. 66% of victims (aged 18-24) first disclosed to a friend. 36% didn’t tell anyone because they were ashamed or thought that they would be found to be, somehow responsible. Finally, only 12% went on to report their assault to the police.

A quote from the CEO of the Irish Rape Crisis Centre, Noeline Blackwell, is very telling:

“There is no perfect time” explains Blackwell. “If you do it early, somebody else says you are trying to ruin their career. Too late, you are accused of jumping on the bandwagon. So there’s no ‘proper’ way to do this. But one of the things that, again this is survivors’ experience I’m speaking about here, is that they know that sometimes if they can go public on something, it may bring someone else who may strengthen somebody else’s conviction that they too can go public about someone who has done harm to more than one person along the way.”

An Underreported Crime

A significant aspect of the sexual assault crisis is underreporting. Many survivors choose not to report their experiences to authorities, a decision influenced by a myriad of factors including fear of retaliation, shame, or perceived insensitivity or disbelief from law enforcement agencies. This has created a silent crisis, where the true scope of the problem remains largely hidden.

Efforts are being made to encourage reporting through campaigns that aim to educate the public and foster a supportive environment for survivors. The #MeToo movement, which started in 2006 really gained momentum in 2017. It has played a substantial role in breaking the silence surrounding sexual assault, encouraging more people to come forward. It’s getting better but there is still much work to do.

Impacts on Survivors of Sexual Assault

sexual assault and shame

The consequences of sexual assault are far-reaching, affecting survivors both psychologically and physically. Survivors may experience PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Furthermore, the trauma can have ripple effects on survivors’ personal relationships and careers.

That is even before we talk about the damage caused by being grilled about your own behaviour. What were you wearing? Did you consent to kiss and did you dare to have a few drinks when out with friends? Articles trying to both sides with stories like this asking what the fine line between a “bad date” and sexual assault don’t help.

Addressing the needs of survivors thus requires a comprehensive approach, encompassing medical, psychological, and social support. North American institutions are increasingly recognizing this. We see various support networks and resources being put in place to assist survivors.

Towards a Safer Future for Sexual Assault Survivors

As North America grapples with the issue of sexual assault, it becomes imperative for communities, governments, and organizations to work together toward a solution. This includes preventative education, and strengthening the criminal justice response to assault. Fostering a culture that supports survivors rather than silencing them. In 2017, the #MeToo movement was chosen as person of the year and we all hoped that this signalled a change.

But, here we are, in 2023 and Russell Brand is being defended against his accusers. They are money-hungry, attention-seeking, liars, disgruntled exes – you name it. Same old, same old. The woman is not perfect and the guy is rich and famous, therefore the woman has ulterior motives. I’m not saying he guilty, only that it’s not inconceivable that he is.

We still have too many places where, culturally, women still bear the brunt of stigma when sexually assaulted. Places where women who are raped are put in prison, or worse. Until women are seen as more than their worth to men, this will not change. Moreover, initiatives aimed at fostering gender equality and dismantling harmful gender stereotypes can play a crucial role. It must be about reducing the prevalence of sexual assault and empowering our daughters.

As we move forward, it is our collective responsibility to build a society that upholds the dignity and safety of all its members, a society where sexual assault becomes a dark chapter of the past, never to be revisited.