“Ryan Seacrest proves that the burden of dealing with assault still falls on women”

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Emily Reynolds
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Ryan Seacrest has been accused of sexual assault – and once again, the burden of how to deal with that has fallen on women, says Emily Reynolds

Ryan Seacrest is just the latest in a long line of Hollywood men to be accused of assault. Suzie Hardy, a single mother, became the personal stylist for the E! News presenter in 2007 – a position that she told Variety provided her with “good pay and a schedule that would allow her to pick up her child from school most workdays”. 

But the job soon became a nightmare, she says, when Seacrest “subjected her to years of unwanted sexual aggression” – allegedly grinding his erect penis against her, groping her vagina and once “slapping her buttock so hard that it left a large welt still visible hours later”. 

Hardy says she kept the job because she wanted to provide for her daughter; when she did report Seacrest to HR, her contract was terminated. 

“As proud as I am and as strong as a woman as I am, as smart as I am and as much work as I’ve done with therapists, it really affected me,” she said. 

But despite these allegations – and despite the current climate in Hollywood, which seems hell bent on finally outing harassers and abusers – Seacrest was still in his usual spot on the red carpet during this weekend’s Oscars, interviewing stars in his role as the face of E! News. 

It’s a surprise that Seacrest was allowed to present E!’s coverage. Even if the news company doesn’t actually care about the allegations, it seems like incredibly bad PR to have someone accused of sexual assault front your coverage for one of the biggest events in entertainment, especially when so many attendees are such vocal supporters of the #TimesUp movement.

And activist Tarana Burke pointed that keeping Seacrest as host puts women attendees in a very difficult position.

“They really shouldn’t send him to the Oscars,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to make those choices of ‘do we or don’t we?’”.

“This isn’t about his guilt or innocence. It’s about there being an accusation that’s alive, and until they sort it out, it’s really on E! News and shouldn’t be on us.”

She’s right – and it’s yet another example of the burden of assault falling on women. 

Aside from being overwhelmingly the victims of assault, women often have to deal with the fallout, too. We’re asked whether we want to stand by our partners or friends accused of assault – and punished no matter what we decide. 

You only have to look at the headlines around the James Franco allegations to see this in action: his sister-in-law Alison Brie has faced more questioning around the allegations than he has. 

And we’re also chastised for dealing with our own assaults in the ‘wrong’ way. We’re told we’re wrong for reporting assault (“but you could ruin someone’s career!”) and doubted if we don’t (“if it happened, why didn’t you just report it?”). There’s no way we can win. 

Putting women in the position where they have to choose whether or not they very publicly talk to someone accused of assault is another way of doing this – and yet another way the burden of assault falls on women.

Some women – including prominent #TimesUp activists Mina Sorvino and Ashley Judd – chose not to speak to Seacrest, and were immediately accused of participating in a ‘witch hunt’ by viewers tweeting along with the ceremony. “#MeToo is becoming a witch hunt” one viewer wrote; others complained that the movement had “gone too far”. 

Choosing to speak to him was equally catastrophic: “why are so many people talking to Ryan Seacrest?” another tweeter wrote.  There was no ‘right’ way to deal with the issue, it seemed. 

E! News says it believes that the allegations against Seacrest are baseless – which is presumably why he was allowed to continue presenting. But in doing so, they put women in yet another difficult position – exactly what Hollywood claims it’s trying to avoid. 

If the entertainment industry really is interested in making life less traumatic, stressful and uncomfortable for women? It should stop presenting them with difficult choices that shouldn’t be theirs to make. All the worst elements of sexual assault – the trauma, the stigma, not being believed – are all ours to bear. This one’s on you. 

Images: Rex Features