Actor Brendan Fraser opened up about his harrowing experience with sexual harassment in a recent interview. The actor who starred in popular films like George of the Jungle, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Bedazzled, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc, slipped out of the public eye in the later part of the last decade. While he says that personal tragedies and repeated health issues took a brunt on his career, an incidence of sexual harassment was the final undoing.

Fraser was overcome with panic and fear

Fraser says that in 2003, he was sexually harassed by the former president of Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) at an event. The immediate effect of the incident was what most survivors of sexual harassment can associate with.

“I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry. I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me.”

When the initial panic and fear wore off, Brendan says he considered going public about it, but then decided against it. He says he didn’t want to contend with how that made him feel, or it becoming part of the narrative. But harassment has a way of getting to you, the violation of your body against your will do not go away with a scrub. It crawls under your skin and settles into your mind. Life is never the same. Fraser too faced long-time repercussions of both facing and keeping quiet after the said incident.

He says, “I became depressed. I was blaming myself and I was miserable—because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’ That summer wore on—and I can’t remember what I went on to work on next.”

We downplay male sexual harassment

Fraser’s story shows how male sexual harassment gets downplayed, by both survivors and the society. The effects of harassment on a person are equally disastrous, irrespective of the gender. However, women tend to find comfort and solace in each other. They are more open to speaking up against it and expressing their feelings and struggles. The display of fear and humiliation does not come easily to men.

Call it toxic masculinity or reverse gender bias, but the society never encourages men to speak up against their sexual violation.

Hence, many men pay the cost of the stigma associated with their gender and suffer in silence. The incident though, keeps gnawing them on the inside.

Fraser, who is A-list Hollywood celebrity felt powerless and miserable. He spiralled into depression and became a recluse. Despite having a standing he could not bring himself to go to the press with the incident, until later in his life. We can only imagine what it must be like for average men, who have no power, or social standing to fight back.

It takes a lot of courage to come forward as survivors of sexual abuse. And only those who have been in their position know the struggle. The #MeToo movement gets some credit in case of Brendan Fraser as well. We can only hope that other male surviors take inspiration from him and come forward to help unmask the predators who get away, simply because their victims are men who are not encouraged to speak up by us. The only ones who deserve to feel guilty and ashamed are the predators. The rest of us should walk and talk with our heads held high.

Also Read : #MeToo is a Movement for Men Facing Sexual Harassment as Well

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

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