A staggering 94 percent of hundreds of women in the entertainment industry say that they have experienced “some form of sexual harassment or assault during their careers in Hollywood,” according to a new survey.
USA Today worked with The Creative Coalition, Women in Film and Television and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to survey 843 women who work in the entertainment industry about their experiences with sexual misconduct.
The survey was conducted online between Dec. 4 and Jan. 14, amid sexual misconduct scandals that have roiled the entertainment industry since media reports revealed numerous sexual harassment and assault allegations leveled against media mogul Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein revelations triggered a flood of allegations against other powerful men in Hollywood, the media, and politics.
Anita Raj, director of the Center for Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego’s medical school, explained that such a survey is not scientifically representative of the whole industry, but still said its findings are “credible and important.”
“The percentages [in USA Today‘s survey] are higher than what we typically see for workplace abuses, but we know there is variation by the type of workplace,” Raj said. “But it makes sense to me that we would see higher numbers [in the entertainment industry].”
Raj cited the prevalence of the “casting couch” in Hollywood as an example of the industry’s problems, and she does not doubt that sexual misconduct is rampant.
“Yes, I’d like to see more solidity in the scientific aspects of how the data was collected. But 94 percent does not seem shocking. It says this is ubiquitous in Hollywood,” Raj said.
USA Today broke down what percentage of respondents said they experienced a given form of harassment or assault. Most commonly, women were subjected to unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures (87 percent), while being touched sexually is not far behind (69 percent). Twenty-one percent said they were forced to do a sexual act.
- Unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures to or about you: 87 percent
- Witnessing others experiencing unwanted forms of sexual comments: 75 percent
- Being touched in a sexual way: 69 percent
- Witnessing others advance professionally from sexual relationships with employer/managers: 65 percent
- Propositioned for a sexual act/relationship: 64 percent
- Being shown sexual pictures without consent: 39 percent
- Someone flashing/exposing themselves to you: 29 percent
- Being forced to do a sexual act: 21 percent
- Ordered unexpectedly to appear naked for auditions: 10 percent
Only a quarter of these women reported incidents after they happened, which was found to be consistent for “all forms of misconduct addressed in the survey.” Many women said they feared personal or professional retaliation for reporting misconduct.
Ten percent of women said they were forced to appear naked without prior notice during auditions. One actress in her early 40s said women are manipulated into appearing nude on camera.
“There are also little ways women get manipulated into showing more of their bodies on camera,” she said. “Like, I had a friend who was on an HBO show and the producers called her the night before she’s supposed to start shooting and tell her that if she didn’t do full frontal nudity (which they didn’t state that they expected at her audition), they would demote the role from a recurring to a one-time guest star.”
One-fifth of women also said they experienced a quid pro quo situation in which they were expected to provide sexual favors in exchange for career advancement.
The survey also found that women from 18-29 years of age are more likely to report incidents of sexual misconduct than older women. Thirty-five percent of women under 30 said they reported incidents of misconduct, while only 19 percent of those 60 years and older did the same.
A publicist in her early 40s, who said she had been subjected to harassment and sexual touching, argued that men who behave this way do not fear any consequences.
“These assailants seem confident enough to know they can become predators without repercussion,” she said.
About half of the reported assailants were in authority, supervisory, or executive positions.