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Sexual Assault and the Entertainment Industry

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Amber Sweet HEADSHOT 3

photo by David Muller

I wasn’t going to write this piece, and as I begin to type, I still have my reservations about it. There comes a time when you have to tackle something bigger than you, surrender to what’s right, and fulfill your social responsibility by speaking up. For me, this is that moment.

I was sexually assaulted by an agent a month ago. During our meeting he put his hand up my skirt, multiple times, and tried to kiss me. A legit, known agent from a legit, known agency touched me, crossed the line, and then laughed about it. When I confronted his behavior, he told me to “lighten up” and to be “grateful” that he was even interested in me. The saddest part was this was not the first time this has happened to me. Years ago I had a meeting with a manager and during our meeting, he asked me how much I wanted an acting career, and did I wanted it so badly that I was willing “to get on my hands and knees.” I never reported it then and I didn’t report this latest incident when it happened. Why you ask? Fear. Fear that it would come back to me and bite me, damaging MY career and MY reputation. That may sound ludicrous, but that’s the truth. An equally scary and sad thing is that this was advice given by all the women in my life: keep my mouth shut. Don’t say anything. Stay silent. In this moment I choose to not keep my mouth shut. It is imperative that I say something and break the silence.

Why do we do this? Why, as victims of sexual assault, molestation, and rape do we bully ourselves into silence? Why do we convince ourselves that we are the bad guys by exposing the indecency of our attackers? Why do we let the fear of what MIGHT happen if we speak up override the NEED to disclose the truth?

It is our responsibility to say something. Every time. That is the ONLY way it will stop. We must empower ourselves to report these incidents and the horrible, disgusting people who commit these crimes. These people prey on our insecurities and exploit our vulnerabilities. It’s wrong and repulsive. We have every right to take a stand and blow the whistle on these deplorable actions, and the people that perpetrate them. Let us use our voices to save our fellow woman, and attempt to change this culture where an unspeakable crime is committed, and we mute ourselves for fear of backlash.

I have reported both men to the Screen Actors Guild and I ask you to join me in the fight against sexual assault.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandi

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

To report sexual harassment:

SAG/AFTRA – Call: (323) 549-6644

http://www.sagaftra.org/sag-aftra-national-contact-information

Editor’s Note – I asked Amber to expand on why she didn’t go to the police as that is a question that has arisen.  This is her response and addition to this article:

I did not report it to the police because “inappropriate touching” is not the equivalent of rape.  These were isolated incidents, and not something I can sue for.  With sexual harassment cases (in order for it to hold up in court), the sexual harassment has to be “severe”, “pervasive” (frequent), or “alter the terms and conditions of employment.”  A single comment, grope or inappropriate email isn’t enough for a lawsuit–but it’s worth reporting, which is what I did.  I named these men to SAG, the union that is supposed to protect me, as an actress.  If this were to have happened at my place of employment, I would’ve followed the same steps.  Furthermore, to my understanding, behavior that courts have rejected as not being sexual harassment has included calling at home, asking for dates, looking down a blouse, lifting up a skirt, one or two (or even four) instances of groping, single instances of disgusting comments, rubbing, and all types of extreme behavior.  This is the sad reality that I am aiming to help change, by speaking out.

Amber Sweet

About Amber Sweet

Amber Sweet is an actress best known for her breakout role in the independent short "There's Something in the Woods.” She is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and a proud company member of Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre, where she tours SoCal in the show "What Goes Around.” Amber is a founding member of the up and coming all female comedy group, Full Frontal Females, where she writes, produces, and acts. Amber will be filming two independent features in 2014, "Clarion Falls" and "Pretty Things", as well as hitting the Off-Broadway stage, reviving her role as Bella in the critically acclaimed production of "Women Are Crazy Because Men Are A**holes.”