On Oct. 8, 2019, rape allegations against Matt Lauer, a former host for NBC News, were made public. Lauer was fired in 2017 for sexual misconduct, but the details were not publicly shared. Now, the details have come to light. Variety reported that in Ronan Farrow’s new book “Catch and Kill,” former NBC employee Brooke Nevils shares she was raped by Lauer at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Since the report, many news outlets have covered the story. However, prominent social movements have remained silent about the allegations. The #MeToo and the Women’s March movements have not voiced support for Brooke Nevils. As a result, the allegations are not receiving the widespread attention that they deserve.
Sexual assault has been a major news topic with the inauguration of Donald Trump, the Harvey Weinstein conviction and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. With the birth of the #MeToo movement, survivors have come forward with their allegations, both anonymously and publicly. As more survivors came forward, social movements worked to support the survivors as the news cycled through their stories, providing resources and publicly supporting the survivors’ statements. It is surprising these social movements have not voiced support for Brooke Nevils. Their actions contradict the purpose of the #MeToo movement and the idea of solidarity in the Women’s March movement. Even after Farrow’s book was released on Oct. 15, #MeToo and the Women’s March have been silent on the allegations. There is no excuse for their behavior.
The #MeToo and Women’s March movements create safe spaces for people to share their stories and traumas. On a national level, the movements help survivors who stand up to the celebrities who assaulted them, such as comedian Bill Cosby and producer Harvey Weinstein. Both were powerful men who used their status to scare their subordinates and get away with rape. Lauer is no different.
The story can be construed as complicated and fabricated: Nevils was drunk during the assault and had consensual sex with Lauer after the assault. Many online commenters are using these behaviors against Nevils. The comments on this Facebook video blame Nevils for being drunk, and they discredit her because she had consensual sex with him after the assault.
However, the case is not as complicated as some people claim. In fact, it is harrowingly simple: Nevils was drunk, and Lauer took advantage of her. She later had “consensual” sex with him, which she shares in a statement to Variety: “This is the Matt Lauer … who I feared when I continued to engage with him, as many victims of acquaintance rape do, particularly in the workplace.” Nevils’ actions following the assault are not out of the ordinary, and they do not discredit her story. As many sexual assault survivors are, she was afraid of the workplace consequences, especially since Lauer was the host of the Today Show and she was only a staffer. Nevils acknowledges this, remarking that Lauer was the “most powerful asset at NBC News.” Lauer had power over Nevils, especially after he brutally raped her.
When Nevils reported to NBC in 2017, she asked her report be investigated and for Lauer to have the chance to defend himself. She did the same when she shared her story with Farrow. Nevils provided “dates, times, evidence of communications, and corroborating accounts,” and both NBC and Farrow found her allegations to be credible. Yet the public is quick to attack Nevils, and the social movements famed for supporting women and survivors have remained silent.
When someone decides to come forward with a sexual assault, they are not doing so for more money or five minutes of fame. Many come forward to relieve the burden of the assault and to continue their personal healing process. Not every survivor feels the need to come forward, but for those who do, it is extremely important. Strong social support is key, especially if the allegations are against a popular or beloved celebrity such as Lauer. News outlets and social media users will victim-blame and discredit the accuser, but support from #MeToo movements can help survivors process through being scrutinized in the public eye. But by remaining silent when Nevils came forward, the #MeToo and Women’s March have failed Nevils and fellow survivors. With no prominent social support, Nevils’ story is diminished to another rape story, a statistic. Her story is kept from being more than a day’s breaking news, allowing criticism of Nevils to build and allowing Lauer’s popular legacy to remain as a former television host.
Chloe Plescher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.