As many strides as the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have made in a short time, they still have a long way to go. Exhibit A is the latest allegations against a well-known actor.
On Sunday, the New York Times published a piece by Bari Weiss (categorized as Opinion) about Orange Is the New Black actress Yael Stone’s struggle to share her experiences with Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush. The piece shares in detail the many difficulties Stone has had bringing her complicated accusations to light in her native Australia–where Rush is considered a national treasure.
“Most women who go public with #MeToo stories are fearful for obvious reasons,” writes Weiss, whose outlook on #MeToo matters hasn’t always exactly seemed enlightened. “There is the pain of reliving traumatic experiences. There is the rage of not being believed. And there is sometimes the discomfort of admitting, as Ms. Stone readily does, that she didn’t say ‘no’ and at times even encouraged some of his [Rush’s] behavior. She did so, she says, out of fear of offending a mentor and friend.”
Weiss goes on to list Stone’s accusations, which include Rush dancing naked in front of her in a dressing room, using a mirror to watch her while she showered, and sending her occasionally erotic text messages while she was 25 years old and starring with Rush, who was 59 at the time, on stage in The Diary of a Madman in 2010 and 2011. Stone admits that she never forcefully declined Rush’s advances (she was intimidated by his stardom and power), but the fact remains that he behaved inappropriately with a coworker, abusing an uneven power dynamic. He could claim he was merely flirting or acting on signals Stone sent, although Stone’s account makes it sound like those signals were nonexistent.
Adding to Stone’s fears about coming forward, Australia’s defamation laws put her in great financial peril. As Weiss lays out:
In the United States, the legal burden is on the person who claims to have been defamed: He or she must prove that the allegations are false. In Australia, in the area of libel law, it’s the opposite. The burden is on the publisher to prove that the allegations against the plaintiff are true. In addition, public figures who sue for libel in the United States must prove that the publisher acted with reckless disregard of the truth, even if the statements prove false.
(Rush, in a statement to the New York Times, says that Stone’s allegations “are incorrect and in some instances have been taken completely out of context.”)
Weiss backs up her case for how much more difficult it is to achieve #MeToo justice in Australia by pointing out that Rush had previously been accused of “inappropriate behavior” during the Sydney Theater Company 2015-16 production of King Lear, to no avail. Once the Daily Telegraph published an anonymous accuser’s allegations, Rush sued the paper into removing the articles from its website. The resulting legal battle caused the Daily Telegraph to out the accuser, actor Eryn Jean Norvill, who has since spent the past several months in and out of courtrooms.
Read the full New York Times piece here for a more comprehensive understanding of Stone’s allegations and the challenges of defending them.