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PopWrapped | Celebrities

Ashley Judd Was Sexually Harassed By Film Executive

Ashley Perna | PopWrapped Author

Ashley Perna

Updated 10/8/2015 11:26am
Ashley Judd Was Sexually Harassed By Film Executive | Ashley Judd
Media Courtesy of Ashley Judd

In an interview with Variety, Ashley Judd disclosed that she was sexually harassed by a film executive in 1997, while filming Kiss the Girls. Judd did not name the aggressor, but said the he was one of the "most famous, admired-slash-reviled bosses" in the industry at the time. This person was not casting Judd for a role, "just twirling the lasso" in a very "stealth and expert" way. 

The harassment took place in what Judd described as "stages" as her harasser "groomed" her. This is a common tactic employed by many serial harassers, and often is the reason so many people fail to understand how the harassment occurred. In Judd's case, she was invited to his hotel, then "physically lured" with a request for help. Judd said that she felt she had to "bargain" in the situation, and repeatedly told him "no". It was a "disgusting" experience, and Judd spent the whole time trying to "weasel out of everything".

Judd said that the "ultimate" part of the harassment was when the executive asked Judd if she would watch him shower. She responded by telling him she would when she won an Oscar for one of his movies. He tried to bargain with her on that, but she was able to have that brief "moment of power when [she] was able to contradict him and hold to [her] reality." She was able to leave shortly thereafter. Neither the executive, nor the studio, have ever offered her a role in one of their movies and a short time later Judd ran into the same harasser at another industry event, where he "let" her "out of that deal".

Like many victims of sexual harassment, Judd choose to stay quiet about the incident at the time. She says that "it took years before I could evaluate that incident and realize that there was something incredibly wrong and illegal about it". Judd says that despite being a proud feminist and a graduate of a women's studies program (now called gender studies), she "did not recognize at the time" that she was being sexually harassed. She pointed out that many victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment "internalize the same that really belongs to the person who is the aggressor". A conversation with another woman who was also harassed by the same aggressor is one of the reasons Judd decided to come forward now.

In her interview with Variety, Judd anticipates being blamed saying that she's aware internet commenters will ask why she didn't leave, or why she didn't create a fuss at the time. The reason she stayed, and the reason for her "when I win an Oscar" comment, was entirely because of the "huge asymmetry of power and control in that room". High powered studio executives have more power than actors, and certainly more than Judd had in 1997. Her actions may not have been what internet commenters would have done, but, as she points out, her actions were actually "exceedingly clever and brilliant and self-preserving". Thinking otherwise is to "internalize those attitudes". 

Judd's revelation is far from surprising, and far from the first of its kind. Allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment span industries, from entertainment to comic books to sports to the business world. Each allegation is accompanied by an appalling level of victim blaming. His or her attire, motives for staying quiet, motives for coming forward, and integrity are questioned and scrutinized, which makes it harder for other victims to come forward. As Judd explained, "we're all part of the problem, but we're all part of the solution."  

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