In the wake of dozens of Hollywood celebrities speaking out to share their stories of sexual misconduct, Broadway star Anthony Rapp came forward and accused House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey of sexually harassing him when he was 14.
But Rapp’s allegations are not what has the American public speaking.
It was the response from his alleged assaulter, Spacey.
In a tweet, Spacey first apologized to Rapp for actions he “honestly didn’t remember.” And then, in a second paragraph, the actor went on to come out as gay.
The response was beyond immature and inappropriate, an offensively apparent bandage on a gaping wound.
It was also obvious that Spacey was simply trying to save face with fans of Rapp, widely known in the gay community for originating the role of Mark in 90’s Broadway hit Rent.
Expectedly, the Internet was not sympathetic or welcoming to Spacey’s more than untimely coming out.
Most were outraged that the star would exploit the LGBT+ name. As openly gay comedian Wanda Sykes shot back, Spacey does “not get to ‘choose’ to hide under the rainbow.” It is shameful and downright shallow Spacey would think to cover up his wrongdoings by joining the gay community. Just as Sykes pointed out, the LGBT+ community is not a card that people should be able to pull out of their back pocket when they get in trouble.
Others commented that tastelessly bringing these mismatched messages together hurts a stereotype many gay people face. Twitter users pointed out that they themselves and people they know have been assumed, without any allegations, to prey on children because of their sexuality. Spacey’s viral declaration does nothing but emphasize a harmful stereotype that stops some from coming out and hurts those who already are.
But what is the most disgusting is the casualness that Spacey exuded when he went from talking about sexual harassment allegations made against him to coming out as gay.
His smooth transition makes it seem as though sexual assault allegations are nothing to be ashamed of or concerned about.
Which is exactly the type of message stars like Anthony Rapp, Luptia Nyong’o, Angelina Jolie, and Cara Delevingne are trying to demote when they bravely share their stories.
The whole point of victims coming forward to share their stories is so the American public sees how common they are and then actively does something to stop their frequency, like raising our boys away from the toxic masculinity that has haunted America for generations.
It’s not to make the American public so aware of the prevalence of these situations that we overlook them all together, again embracing the age-old tradition of shaming and ignoring victims into silence.
Spacey’s now viral message undermines every recent attempt to bring these blaring issues to light. His reaction is a blatant example of the awful mentality that Americans need to abolish: that sexual assault can be brushed under the rug.
It overturns the already made efforts of brave Hollywood stars who have come forward to proclaim the exact opposite.
Spacey may think that the allegations against him can be pushed aside with a quick apology and an ascension into the gay community. However, the hurt and devastation that victims of sexual assault face every day cannot be. It is extremely unfair that alleged abusers can leave their misconducts in the past, while victims are faced with their mental and emotional consequences every day.
The hurt and unspeakable devastation that comes with being a victim of sexual abuse cannot be cured with a tweet.
For America as a whole to once and for all combat sexual violence and make the statistics better for coming generations, we need to start listening to people like Rapp and recognizing and then condemning the faults in the attitudes of those like Spacey. Creating a safer space for victims, one where their allegations are taken seriously and cannot be overlooked in the presence of a tweet or anything else for that matter, is the first step our society needs to make.