More than 300 women have come forward to accused movie director James Toback of sexual harassment.
Among Toback’s latest accusers are actresses Rachel McAdams, Selma Blair and Julianne Moore, as well as NBC news anchor Natalie Morales.
The Los Angeles Times first reported that at least 38 women had accused Toback, 72, of sexual assault. Glenn Whipp, the journalist behind the original article, tweeted on Oct. 26 that a total of 310 women had contacted the paper to say, “Me too.”
UPDATE: The number of women who have contacted me about their encounters with James Toback now stands at 310. https://t.co/7jjbIwWqih
Glenn Whipp (@GlennWhipp) October 26, 2017
Many of the women’s accounts of what they endured share similarities notably that Toback made the women to believe what they were doing was simply business as usual and necessary to get ahead in the cutthroat entertainment industry.
“The way he presented it, it was like, ‘This is how things are done.'” Not anymore; #MeToo takes its grip on society.
The Times summed up the pattern that the women detailed:
“According to these women, Toback would approach them, offer up his credentials and say he could make them a star. Then, in a hotel room, a movie trailer or public park, meetings framed as interviews or auditions quickly turned sexual, they said.”
McAdams, now 38, was a 21-year-old theater student when she encountered Toback for a meeting in his hotel room, the actress shared in an interview with Vanity Fair. Toback told the young aspiring star that he had masturbated thinking about her audition and asked McAdams to show him her pubic hair. McAdams said she “felt like I was there forever” but eventually left.
According to McAdams, Toback portrayed the ordeal as an audition that was simply a test of her vulnerability.
“[He] used the same language during my audition that you have to take risks and sometimes you’re going to be uncomfortable and sometimes it’s going to feel dangerous,” McAdams told Vanity Fair. “And that’s a good thing when there is danger in the air and you feel like you are out of your comfort zone.”
Perhaps equally as disturbing as McAdams’ experience was the response from McAdams’ agent, who was apparently familiar with Toback’s behavior:
“She was very sorry. But she also said, ‘I can’t believe he did it again. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. He did this the last time that he was in town. He did this to one of my other actresses.’ That is when I got mad, because I felt like I was kind of thrown into the lion’s den and given no warning that he was a predator. This was something that he was known for doing already. I was so surprised to hear that.”
Selma Blair also spoke with Vanity Fair. Blair was one of the women who recalled her experience for The Times’ original story but had asked to remain anonymous. She shared publicly with Vanity Fair the details of her encounter, which took place in 1999.
Prior to the interviews, Blair said she only told two people about her experience.
Blair’s story depicts a man who knew his position of power and used it to play on a young woman’s vulnerabilities. She told Vanity Fair that Toback told her she clearly did not have confidence. And, like McAdams, Blair said that the way Toback tried to get into her head made her think she was in another acting class:
“Now I’m even more nervous, because he’s told me I have no confidence, he said he could have someone killed, and he said we had a connection which no one had said to me before in this business. I really believed that when he started to talk that he was going to be my mentor. That is how he got into my brain. You know, in acting classes they get into your personal history and connect that to work. So this conversation didn’t seem that strange.”
Toback told Blair to take her shirt off and then rubbed himself on her. In the moment, Blair said she would just be relieved to exit the situation without being raped. Toback threatened to kill Blair if she ever told anyone what happened.
Toback told The Times, “I have nothing to say about anything” before hanging up on one of the paper’s journalists, the outlet reported.
“I discovered that it had nothing to do with right and wrong and everything to do with money and power,” former Weinstein assistant Zelda Perkins said.
In the time following accusations against Harvey Weinstein, women have shared hundreds of stories about men in authoritative roles using their status to get away with sexual misconduct. Weinstein, co-founder and former co-chairman of the Weinstein Company, stands accused of sexually harassing, sexually assaulting and/or raping at least 40 women.
Other recently accused men include former President George H.W. Bush; Lockhart Steele, former editorial director for Vox Media; Mark Halperin, who exited roles with MSNBC and NBC as a result of the accusations; Roy Price, former head of Amazon Studios; Steve Jurvetson, founding partner of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which has invested in Tesla’s SpaceX; John Besh, a chef and founder of Besh Restaurant Group; and actor Ben Affleck.
Women have come together across social media using the hashtag #MeToo to say that they, too, have been victims of sexual harassment.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll conducted this month, 54 percent of women have experienced sexual advances from a man that they felt were inappropriate.
The way sexual harassment is defined varies depending on who is asked, though. An OZY-Marist Poll asked respondents if they agreed with the following statement: “What many women call sexual harassment is innocent flirting intended as flattery”
American adults overall largely disagreed (60 percent), with just 32 percent saying they agree and 7 percent saying they were unsure. The most likely respondents to agree were Trump supporters, who were fairly evenly divided: 44 percent agreed, while 56 percent disagreed.
According to data collected by Cosmopolitan, 1 in 3 women aged 18 to 34 have been sexually harassed at work and the number may in fact even be higher. Aside from underreporting, some victims may not even know they were harassed. Of the women who said “no” to being sexually harassed at work, 16 percent responded “yes” when asked if they ever experienced sexually explicit or sexist comments which Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 classifies as harassment.