Who is Rose McGowan?
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With its account of her escape from the Children of God cult, American actress Rose McGowan’s memoir, Brave, due to be published at the end of January, was always going to be a harrowing read. However, it will be her account of her traumatic experiences of Harvey Weinstein — and subsequent attempts by his enablers to quash her allegations of rape — that are likely to most endure in the minds of readers. Her story has proved particularly salient to the debate on sexual abuse and harassment in Hollywood and beyond and the extraordinary lengths that individuals, often in powerful positions, had gone to perpetuate silence, often highly successfully.
Ms. McGowan, once best known for her lead role in the drama Charmed, was thrust into the spotlight this October, when she was one of the women named in the ground-breaking New York Times piece that broke the silence on Mr. Weinstein. The paper reported that in 1997 she had reached a $100,000 settlement following an “episode” in a hotel room when she was just 23 years old. The payment did not amount to an “admission” of guilt, the settlement documents said, but it did not stop Mr. Weinstein from doing everything he could to quash any attempt by her or others to reveal details of their experiences, hiring intelligence company Black Cube, largely made up of former Israeli intelligence officers, to spy on her and others. The New Yorkerrevealed that two of their investigators had met with Ms. McGowan to find details of her forthcoming book, including one woman purporting to be a women’s rights advocate.
What was her role?
After initially declining to comment on the New York Times piece, Ms. McGowan has become one of the more prominent voices in the uncovering of allegations against Mr. Weinstein, and the criticism of those who had stood by and did nothing. Soon after the scandal broke, she revealed she had told a senior person at Amazon, to which she had sold a script she had been working on, of her experiences after it emerged that the Weinstein Company would be brought in on the project. “I told the head of your studio that HW raped me,” she tweeted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “over and over again I said it. He said it hadn’t been proven. I said I was the proof,” she said, adding that Amazon had won a “dirty Oscar” while “funding rapists.” She claimed that her script had subsequently been dropped.
What has her impact been?
The revelations by Ms. McGowan and others have helped to ignite the global movement of women and men who have revealed details of abuse, through the #metoo campaign, and other platforms, the impact of which has been seismic globally. While other Hollywood heavyweights such as Kevin Spacey have been dropped from key roles following a raft of allegations and Bollywood stars have also revealed abuse they faced, its reach has extended across industries. A senior member of the British Cabinet was sacked in December amid a scandal over porn on a work computer triggered by a wider debate on sexual abuse in Westminster, while allegations of sexual assault played a decisive role in the Democrats’ first senatorial victory in Alabama in a quarter of a century. Many have sought to tie up the revelations with wider movements. The U.S. dictionary Merriam-Webster said it had seen a 70% increase in online searches for the word ‘feminism’ compared with a year ago, declaring it the word of the year.
What will she do now?
Like many of those who have broken their silence, the rawness of Ms. McGowan’s emotions has been palpable: she was temporarily suspended from Twitter (and swiftly reinstated following a public outcry) over angry tweets to Ben Affleck, who she claimed was aware of Mr. Weinstein’s actions.
However, alongside anger she has expressed optimism. Describing Mr. Weinstein as the bogey man of Hollywood, “if you can slay that one, we can slay all of them,” she told the Time magazine, which named her among the Silence Breakers who were collectively its Person of the Year.