Ashley Judd has spoken out in detail about her experience of being sexually harassed by a major studio executive as a young actress.
In an interview with Variety, Judd said she was filming Kiss the Girls with Paramount in the 1990s when a rival ‘mogul’ used the pretense of talking about possible roles to lure her into an uncomfortable and sexually-charged situation.
Although she declined to name the executive, Judd described him as “one of our industry’s most famous, admired-slash-reviled bosses”.
His harassment culminated with Judd refusing his request to watch him shower in his hotel room – but as she explains, there was a whole lot of grooming and bargaining that took place before it got to that point.
“He was very stealth and expert about it. He groomed me, which is a technical term – Oh, come meet at the hotel for something to eat. Fine, I show up. Oh, he’s actually in his room. I’m like, Are you kidding me? I just worked all night. I’m just going to order cereal. It went on in these stages.”
“I have a feeling if this is online and people have the opportunity to post comments, a lot of the people will say, ‘Why didn’t you leave the room?’, which is victim-blaming. When I kept saying no to everything, there was a huge asymmetry of power and control in that room.”
Judd admits that – even though she was a smart, educated feminist at the time – it still took her “years” to fully recognise what happened to her that night. And once she did, she too beat herself up about how she responded.
“This is another part of the process. We internalise the shame. It really belongs to the person who is the aggressor. And so later, when I was able to see what happened, I thought: Oh god, that’s wrong. That’s sexual harassment. That’s illegal. I was really hard on myself because I didn’t get out of it by saying, ‘OK motherf—er, I’m calling the police’.”
She said that feeling of shame and self-blame for not calling out his behaviour and walking out sooner “contributed to my journey of coming forward, because I felt bad about myself initially for the way I maintained my safety and got out of the room. When, in fact, what I did was exceedingly clever and brilliant and self-preserving.”
Judd said she decided to tell her story to add to the voices of women working at all levels in Hollywood who – with the support of each other – are finding the courage to speak out.
“This will be familiar to all the women to whom this has happened,” she said. “I have a feeling we are a legion.”