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A Dutch TV mogul blamed women for not reporting sexual abuse. This was their response

A lesson in how not to respond to allegations of abuse.

A Dutch TV mogul blamed women for not reporting sexual abuse. This was their response
John de Mol. [Source Images: REMKO DE WAAL/ANP/AFP/Getty]

The media executive who invented some of TV’s best-known reality shows has been accused of victim-blaming by female employees. This, after he addressed sexual-abuse allegations that are engulfing The Voice of Holland, the original version of the global singing-contest franchise.

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After women came forward with stories of alleged abuse, John de Mol—creator of The Voice, Big Brother, and Fear Factor, and founder of Talpa Media—gave an interview in which he said he wished they’d had the courage to come forward sooner. “Do not wait. Do not be afraid. You have to open your mouth,” he said. “Only then can we help you.” He concluded that “Women apparently have a kind of shame, I don’t know what it is, but I would like to delve into it.”

In a full-page but very succinct ad in Friday’s Algemeen Dagblad, a group of women at Talpa Media responded:

Dear John,

It’s not the women.

Greetings, the women of your company

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In a separate statement, the Guardian says they noted their “amazement and shame” at De Mol’s comments, arguing that “Women’s behavior is not the problem. And not the solution either,” adding: “This statement is, of course, also for all other victims of sexually transgressive behavior in the workplace (not just at Talpa), to encourage them.” They added that Del Mol’s decision to blame victims, five years into the #MeToo era, “says a lot about a culture change that is needed within the company, but also in the media world and society.”

The snowballing scandal surrounding The Voice is now in its second week, and it has been enough to prompt RTL, the media network that broadcasts it, to suspend the show.

The allegations have grown to include more than half a dozen from former female contestants, including a rape accusation against one of the show’s judges, claims of misconduct by the program’s bandleader (who resigned a week ago), and six complaints against another judge, three of which involve allegedly groping minors on The Voice Kids.

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Since the full-page ad ran, De Mol says he’s spoken to the employees behind it to “understand this anger and disappointment.” He has now issued a new statement in response:

I now understand that, contrary to my good intentions, I have failed to take into account the fact that I, completely unintentionally, gave the impression that I was putting the blame on women. It has become clear to me now that women will not come forward if the culture in a company is not perceived as being sufficiently safe. I blame myself for the fact that this is apparently the case in my company, and I am 100% committed to changing this.

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