Judy Garland. Corey Haim. Shirley Temple. Todd Bridges. The entertainment industry has a history of sexually abusing minors. Although there are few statistics to accurately measure the number of sexually abused minors in the industry, many former child entertainers have come forward to shine a spotlight on the dark side of the industry.
Jeffrey Cooper is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a sound mixing studio architect. He is also guilty of child molestation. On May 9, the 70-year-old Film Academy member’s criminal trial for eight counts of sexual abuse began. Cooper was found guilty of three counts of child molestation on May 20, while judge Alan Schneider declared a mistrial for the remaining five counts.
Cooper pleaded not guilty to all eight charges after being arrested by LA Special Victims Unit detectives in June of 2018. Cooper reportedly committed lewd acts against two underage girls, with the first offense happening in 2006. Cooper is scheduled for sentencing June 1, where he faces 12 years in prison.
Why sex abuse happens in the entertainment industry
Incidents of sexual abuse between minors and predators in the entertainment industry have dated as far back as the 1920s. Since Hollywood’s inception, predatory sexual behavior has been accepted as the norm. Directors, actors, and powerful players in the industry were allowed to prey on the most vulnerable groups of people with no repercussions.
Because Hollywood directors, producers, agents, and actors are deemed so powerful, there are many people willing to turn a blind eye to their predatory natures – sometimes including the victims’ parents. Just like many people do not want to come to terms with the fact that their favorite entertainers are sexually abusing children, many people do not want to discuss the role that starstruck parents play in their children’s abuse. There are some parents who genuinely may not know of their children’s abuse; however, there are other parents who are willing to do whatever it takes for their children to become famous.
Another common reason why the sexual abuse of minors is prevalent in the entertainment industry is due to blackmail. The key players in the entertainment industry have the resources necessary to control the legal process. Parents and minors who want to come forward and expose predators in the industry are threatened and coerced into remaining silent. Or, minors who have been sexually abused fail to come forward for the same reasons that other sexual assault victims do not come forward: fear of not being believed.
How does sexual abuse in the entertainment industry begin?
In the entertainment industry, the sexual abuse of minors often begins with grooming. Grooming is a process that predators use to lure sexual assault victims in and fool them into gaining their trust. Because aspiring young actors could also idolize the entertainers or the directors, it is easy for the minors to trust these predators. They may mistake the character an older actor portrays for the real person.
Blurred lines between social norms
Another way that child sexual abuse in the entertainment industry happens is due to the blurred lines between what is usually acceptable and unacceptable. Outside of the entertainment industry, there are very few occasions where parents would leave their children with other adults unsupervised for hours or even days.
There are even fewer occasions where parents would be okay with allowing their children to spend the night with other adults unsupervised or live with them for weeks at a time. However, these acts are common within the entertainment industry under the guise of “work.” From the time that children consider working in the entertainment industry, they are treated as adults and isolated from their parents.
Another factor that plays a role into child sexual abuse within the entertainment industry is the casting couch. The “casting couch” is a common and unethical practice that encourages inappropriate sexual activity between a key player in entertainment and a person who wants to break into the industry. Even seasoned entertainers still have to struggle with the idea of participating in the casting couch. The casting couch is a form of extortion where a predator promises a victim an entertainment opportunity in exchange for sexual acts. Victims who deny engaging in these acts will not be considered for certain entertainment opportunities.
Liability for child sexual abuse in the entertainment industry
Even though the entertainment industry has a history of child sexual abuse, several pieces of legislation have assisted in cracking down on the problem.
Extension of statute of limitations on federal sexual assault crimes
One of the best methods of relief for victims of child sexual assault is that there is a longer statute of limitations on these types of cases. Instead of the average three-year limit to file a lawsuit, victims of child sexual assault now have a 10-year time limit to take legal action against negligent parties. For certain felony sexual assault crimes, there is no statute of limitations. That means that the assault could have taken place 20 years ago, and a victim may still be eligible to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator of their assault.
Additional parties who can be held liable for child sexual abuse
Sexual assault victims can also file lawsuits against multiple parties who were complicit in their abuse. If the sexual abuse took place at a business, a church, or a production company, these entities can also be held liable for a minor’s sexual assault.
If you or your child has been the victim of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment, let the lawyers at Taylor & Ring fight for the justice that you deserve. We have 20 years of experience fighting for victims, and if you work in the entertainment industry, we want to help. To schedule a free consultation at our Los Angeles office, call 310-776-6390, or complete our contact form. We represent clients throughout Southern California.
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John C. Taylor is one of the most accomplished and nationally recognized trial lawyers in California. The broad variety of cases he has tried during his career is matched by few attorneys, trying more than 125 cases to verdict, including: police shootings and civil rights, sexual abuse, serious personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, insurance bad faith, and employment.
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