15 Silence Breakers: The Courageous Women Who Spoke Out

We are seeing something in society these days that we have never seen before. Women are speaking up about the disgusting things that have apparently been going on in Hollywood for years. These are not just new allegations either; they span many years which gives us all a frightening glimpse into what’s been going on behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.

The celebrities and big-wigs in the industry that have been exposed in the past couple of months are staggering. We have seen faces that we have trusted and enjoyed watching over the years only to find out they have been taking advantage of their power in ways that are unconscionable. We have seen some of our favorite actors being fired from shows as the scandals have broken. The saddest part is that this shouldn't come as a total surprise. Both men and women have been talking about harassment in the industry for years and no one listened to them— no more. Ashley Judd is a great example of that. She experienced harassment by Harvey Weinstein before she became famous. She was one of the brave women that tried to expose him in the '90s only to be ignored. It’s shameful that women have been discouraged over the years about talking about the things that have happened to them, and we are thankful that so many brave women have decided to step up and tell their stories.

It’s long from over; it seems alike there's another scandal being exposed on the daily as women are speaking out about what happened to them. It’s never easy. TIMES decided to make these women part of their cover story and they called them the Silence Breakers.

15 Ashley Judd

The shocking part of Ashley Judd’s story is that she didn’t just start speaking about it now, she’s been talking about it since the '90s, and yet nothing was done about Harvey Weinstein. It was just sort of known that Weinstein was just that type of guy and should be avoided. But no one did anything about removing him from the position he held. "I started talking about Harvey the minute it happened," Judd says in an interview with TIME. "Literally, I exited that hotel room at the Peninsula Hotel in 1997 and came straight downstairs to the lobby, where my dad was waiting for me, because he happened to be in Los Angeles from Kentucky, visiting me on the set. And he could tell by my face — to use his words — that something devastating had happened to me. I told him. I told everyone."

14 Juana Melara

Juana Melara fis one of the Silence Breakers because she worked in a hotel for many years. She said she couldn’t count how many times guests would expose themselves to the staff or even go so far as pleasure themselves when they were in their presence. The female staff felt like they couldn’t say anything because they needed their jobs to support their family. She tells of "feeling the pressure of someone's eyes" as she would clean the room. She’s experienced men who have blocked her from leaving their room and even one that exposed himself to her hoping that she would take care of his needs. She wasn’t about to take part in any of that, however, and screamed until he let her pass. "Nothing happened to me that time, thank God," she recalls. It’s shocking how often these things occur.

13 Selma Blair

Selma Blair attends the 15th Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball on June 11, 2016 in Brentwood, California.

Selma Blair has been in the industry for years, getting her big break in the movie Cruel Intentions. She has a horrifying story of meeting with independent film director James Toback in 1999. She was asked to meet him in his hotel room, though she originally thought they were meeting in the hotel restaurant. When she arrived, he said she needed to become more vulnerable in her acting and told her to strip down. When she took off her top, he asked her to sleep with him. She refused and tried to leave, but he blocked her from leaving. That’s when he did the unthinkable and forced her to watch him as he touched himself against her leg. When she was finally able to leave, he threatened to kill her if she told anyone. “He said that if I ever wronged him, he would have me kidnapped, have my eyes gouged out with a BIC pen, and throw me into the Hudson River.”

12 Rachel McAdams

Although not one of the Silence Breakers, Rachel McAdams also experienced a similar shocking experience as Selma Blair. James Toback was known for using his lecherous behavior as tools or “tests” that an actress had to pass to become more open-minded in the industry. “I was 21 and in the middle of theater school when I met [Toback]. Theater school was a very safe space.” But Toback, she said, “used the same language during my audition — that you have to take risks and sometimes you’re going to be uncomfortable and sometimes it’s going to feel dangerous. And that’s a good thing — when there is danger in the air and you feel like you are out of your comfort zone.”

11 Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift had a shocking experience when she went to do an interview with a DJ named David Mueller. At some point, he slid his hand up her skirt and grabbed her bottom. She wasn’t about to let that bad experience go unnoticed and got him fired. Mueller then had the nerve to sue Swift for millions in damages. She countersued him for a “symbolic $1.” The most repulsive part of this incident is the fact that Mueller’s lawyer tried to make Swift feel bad about getting Mueller fired and ruining his reputation. Maybe Mueller should have learned a long time ago to keep his hands to himself. When Swift was on the witness stand, she said, "I'm not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault," she told the lawyer. "I'm being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions. Not mine."

10 Wendy Walsh

Wendy Walsh is one of many women who has come forward to speak about assault allegations against Bill O’Reilly. Apparently, there has been $13 million in settlement claims paid out to people from O’Reilly and the company. Walsh is a psychologist and a former guest on the network. She also happens to be one of the first women to share her story. She admitted she was first afraid to speak publicly about what happened to her. "I was afraid for my kids, I was afraid of the retaliation," she says. "I know what men can do when they're angry. I felt it was my duty as a mother of daughters, as an act of love for women everywhere and the women who are silenced, to be brave." It seems that abuse happens to women in all walks of life.

9 Gwyneth Paltrow

These attacks on female actresses typically happen when they are first starting out, though not always. Gwyneth Paltrow, although not one of the TIMES Silence Breakers, also came forward about allegations about Harvey Weinstein. She stated that when she got the role on Emma, which was a Miramax property under Weinstein, he asked Paltrow to go to his hotel room which seems to be the MO for all these attackers. He suggested to the actress that they give each other massages and she turned him down. “I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified.” We wonder how many poor girls were in the same position and felt as if they couldn’t say no. These situations are wrong in so many ways.

8 Rose McGowan

Rose McGowan is not only one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, but she has a long history with him. She sued the man over a 1997 hotel incident which she is only now getting a settlement for. She’s stated how tired she is of keeping her silence and she has urged women to come forward and speak against their abusers to seek justice. “I have been silenced for 20 years,” McGowan said. “I have been slut-shamed. I have been harassed. I’ve been maligned. And you know what? I’m just like you. What happened to me behind the scenes happens to all of us in this society and that cannot stand and it will not stand,” she said. “I came to be a voice for all of us who have been told that we are nothing. For all us who have been looked down on. No more. Name it, shame it, and call it out. It’s time to clean house.”

7 Angelina Jolie

The list seems endless when it comes to the women that Harvey Weinstein is being accused of having inappropriate behavior with. Angelina Jolie has never worried about speaking her mind before considering she is an activist; it wasn’t surprising when she came forward as well. She told The New York Times about her experience. “I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did.” It’s sad how so many people experienced these things and no one did anything about it. It seems Weinstein made most of his advances on women who were in movies that he had control over. Just like Paltrow, she was put in a difficult position where she had to turn his advances down. The movie in Jolie’s case was Playing by Heart.

6 Leigh Corfman

Leigh Corfman came out recently about an attack she experienced when she was only 14 by Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican nominee for the senate. At the time, he had been a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. She told a story about how he took her to his home and underdressed her. Since she accused him, nine other women have come forward to say that Moore abused them as well when they were teenagers. Of course, Moore denied everything and said that the allegations against him were “malicious” and “false.” In November she stated, "Specifically, I do not know any of these women nor have I ever engaged in s*xual misconduct with any woman.” It’s a situation where Corfman felt like she was the one to blame because she was in an adult world and trusted the person she was with.

5 Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevingne is one of the most recent victims of Harvey Weinstein. Many veterans of Hollywood had stated how difficult it was to come forward when they were younger because they feared for their careers. These days, though, young actresses like Cara Delevingne are coming forward to say that they too experienced the dark side of Harvey Weinstein. In the case of Delevingne, she was brought into explicit conversations and asked to kiss another girl. “He walked me to the door and stood in front of it and tried to kiss me on the lips,” Delevingne writes. “I stopped him and managed to get out of the room. I still got the part for the film and always thought that he gave it to me because of what happened. Since then, I felt awful that I did the movie. I felt like I didn’t deserve the part.”

4 Heather Graham

After the success of her movies Boogie Nights and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Harvey Weinstein offered Heather Graham a role in one of his upcoming movies. “In the early 2000s, Harvey Weinstein called me into his office. There was a pile of scripts sitting on his desk. “I want to put you in one of my movies,” he said and offered to let me choose which one I liked best. Later in the conversation, he mentioned that he had an agreement with his wife. He could sleep with whomever he wanted when he was out of town. I walked out of the meeting feeling uneasy. There was no explicit mention that to star in one of those films I had to sleep with him, but the subtext was there.”

3 Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale was yet another actress asked to come to Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room. At the time, she was still in high school and said she was so naïve, that when he answered the door in his robe, it didn’t occur to her that he would expect anything. She said it wouldn’t be the first time he made advances and when she would say no, he would call her the C-word and would get into screaming matches with her. “It speaks to the status quo in this business that I was aware that standing up for myself and saying no to things, while it did allow me to feel uncompromised in myself, undoubtedly harmed my career and was never something I felt supported by anyone other than my family. I had a male friend who, based on my experience, warned a young actress who said she was going to dinner with Harvey to be careful,” she writes. “He received a phone call the next day saying he would never work in another Miramax film; the girl was already sleeping with Harvey and had told him that my friend had warned her off.”

2 Charlize Theron

Theron was also invited to a well-known director’s home who harassed her. The director showed up to the door in his Hugh Heffner-inspired pj’s and Theron couldn’t figure out what was going on. He offered her a drink and she started to wonder when they were going to start working. But work wasn’t what he had in mind, and when he put the moves on her, Theron wasn’t about to put up with any of it. "I think when you put forth a certain kind of attitude, people don't mess with you," she says. "I never walked into a room as the naive farm girl from South Africa." So, even at 18, "I knew how to deal with it: 'Not going to happen. Wrong girl, buddy.'" Despite being so young, she was able to handle the situation.

1 Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton is another actress that was treated like an object by a director. It’s a wonder that these directors think they have the right to behave like this. Newton said her experience changed her forever. “A director, on a callback, had a camera shooting up my skirt and asked me to touch myself and think about the guy making love to me in the scene,” she said. Newton said she was talking about this now in hopes that “one person will read this and it will stop them getting abused by a director.” Let’s hope that this is the beginning of a big change in Hollywood. Men should not be using their power in the industry to take advantage of women.

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