Note in support of the women subjected to sexual harassment, violence & abuse by Russell Brand:
Brand wasn’t the first and won’t be the last male public figure from that era to be exposed for being predatory and abusive. Right now, we need to rally around and support the women who have had the courage to speak out, especially when speaking out against powerful public figures with a fanbase that is ready to weaponise. Speaking out about sexual violence is one of the hardest things to do – we need to create a culture of belief, compassion and solidarity, not rushing to the defense of powerful celebrities.
Reports of sexual harassment, rape and emotional abuse from British actor Russell Brand have taken the media by storm. The reports began with four women, none of whom knew each other, but as the story broke, more women have come forward with their own stories. The assaults span from 2006-2013, years when Brand was at the height of his fame and a radio host for the BBC. Surprisingly, despite the The Times, Sunday Times, and Channel 4 Dispatches’ reports, there is as of yet no criminal investigation against Brand, and he has not been arrested.
The list of women who were subjected to Brand’s assaults include one who was sixteen years old at the time, and has been given the pseudonym Alice. Brand allegedly referred to Alice as ‘the child’ during their three-month relationship, in which she states he ‘engaged in the behaviours of a groomer’.* He has also been accused of rape taking place in 2012, from a woman who was treated at a rape centre after the incident. An investigation has reportedly found a text from Brand on the night of this assault, which read ‘I’m sorry, that was crazy and selfish. I hope you can forgive me’.* Another woman, Pheobe, recalls an assault from 2013, which she didn’t immediately report due to fear for her career and threats of legal action from Brand.
Unfortunately, these revelations follow a long tradition of powerful men escaping scrutiny for much longer than they should have. Broadcast union Bectu has revealed that managers were told in 2019 about an incident in 2008, in which Brand had exposed himself to a woman in the BBC office, but nothing was done to investigate this at the time.* Phillipa Childs, the head of the union, has said that ‘we might not be in the situation we're in now’, had that incident been investigated further.* Not unlike the revelation of Jimmy Savile’s crimes in 2012, the writing was on the wall with Brand’s behaviour long before the world saw it. Alice claims that Brand’s attitude towards women was ‘an open secret’.* When Brand met Savile in 2007, for example, he offered on-air to send his female assistant to go to Savile’s place naked.* He would undress publicly, make inappropriate sexual comments about women, and other complaints about his aggression and behaviour at work were made during this time. These complaints did not receive the attention or alarm they warranted, perhaps because of the lack of social media scrutiny in those years. Perhaps it was because the public still saw him as harmless, and he was often admired due to his anti-capitalist stance. His presentation as a comedic, flawed, flirty character, a product of ‘lad culture’, protected him from too much scrutiny until now, and he was able to hide in plain sight.
On Friday, Brand spoke out about the reports for the first time. He stated that he has had an ‘extraordinary and distressing week’, thanked his fans for their ‘support’, and entreated his fans to subscribe to Rumble to receive further videos from him. Brand insists that all relations he had in his ‘time of promiscuity’ were ‘were absolutely, always consensual’.* It is ironic and sad that the same defense Brand makes for himself, that of simple, forgivable ‘promiscuity’, is the same brush that is used to condemn women who come forward about sexual assault and violence. Hopefully we, as a society, can move away from this narrative - can learn to hold men in power accountable for their choices rather than shield them - and the women affected by Brand’s actions can receive clarity and justice.
- E. Brean