The “GLOW” star addressed allegations against her brother-in-law at Sunday’s SAG Awards
She came prepared.
“GLOW” star Alison Brie cut a diplomatic figure at Sunday’s SAG Awards as she fielded a question about her brother-in-law, James Franco, who stands accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. (Franco, who skipped the red carpet but attended the ceremony, has denied the claims through an attorney.)
“Above all, what we’ve always said is that it remains vital that anyone who feels victimized should and does have the right to speak out and come forward,” Brie, who is married to actor Dave Franco, told E! News’ Giuliana Rancic. “I obviously support my family, and not everything that’s been reported is fully accurate, so I think we’re waiting to get all the information. But of course, now is a time for listening and that’s what we’re all trying to do.”
At the 2018 #SAGAwards, Alison Brie addressed the allegations of sexual misconduct made against her brother-in-law, James Franco: "It remains vital that anyone that feels victimized should and does have the right to speak out and come forward." pic.twitter.com/dG5uJJVko7
— E! News (@enews) January 21, 2018
Brie isn’t alone: After NBC axed Matt Lauer in November over allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior,” his colleagues Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb were left to process the news on air. “It’s hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day,” Kotb said. Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King also struggled on air with news of their CBS colleague Charlie Rose’s suspension over alleged sexual misconduct. (“Both my son and my daughter called me; Oprah called me and said, ‘Are you okay?’” King lamented. “I am not okay.”)
Sarah Silverman earlier broke her silence on Louis C.K., her friend of 25 years who’d copped to having masturbated in front of women without their consent. “I love Louis, but Louis did these things. Both of those statements are true,” she said on her Hulu talk show, “I Love You, America.” “So I just keep asking myself: Can you love someone who did bad things?” And Lena Dunham took the opposite approach, defending a “Girls” writer accused of rape before apologizing for weighing in on the matter.
Each of the prominent men accused in recent months of making unwanted sexual advances — Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, journalist Mark Halperin, ex-prez George H.W. Bush and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, to scratch the surface — has family and friends no doubt wrestling with similar pain, defiance and doubt. You may also find yourself in such a position. So what do you do?
“This is really hard stuff,” said Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist at the American Psychological Association who has researched sexual harassment and sexual violence extensively. “These are important conversations to have, and part of why we don’t have these conversations is that they’re so hard and uncomfortable.”
Here’s expert advice from Wright and Debra Borys, a Los Angeles-based psychologist and sexual harassment expert, on how to handle a friend or loved one who’s been accused of sex harassment or assault:
Resist the knee-jerk impulse to defend. “When we immediately defend a person, it comes across as if we’re defending their actions,” Wright said — and it’s important to separate the essence of a person from the bad acts they may commit. Instead, try to help people understand the difference. “One does not need to be defined by a single bad act,” she said. “It doesn’t erase everything that you’ve done up to that point.”
Give yourself time to process. You’re likely percolating with some “scary, diametrically opposed and contradictory feelings,” said Borys. Allow yourself to feel those conflicting emotions without judging yourself one way or the other, Wright said. And recognize that your feelings may change over time, especially if new bad behavior comes to light, your self-reflection dredges up past offenses you didn’t call out in the moment, or the person does or doesn’t take steps toward accountability.
Talk to someone. Seek feedback from a trusted confidante, Wright suggested — preferably a person who is “relatively open-minded and nonjudgmental,” and who will “listen without immediately going to giving advice or telling you what to do.”
Ask yourself some tough questions, Borys said: If you feel obligated to stand by your friend, at what point would you no longer do that? Why draw the line there and not here? What determines your level of tolerance? Is there anything in your own personal history of harassment or abuse that could be coloring your perception of either the victim or the accused?
Take time before confronting the person. Approach them “when you feel the most capable of communicating your thoughts without engaging in blaming statements,” Wright said, and opt for in-person, phone or even handwritten communications over social media. Identify your objective for the talk: “If your goal is to get them to admit to something that they’re not ready to admit to, you’re probably not going to be very successful,” she said. “If your goal is to express to them your disappointment, then that’s something that is in your control to do.”
Don’t attack the person, Borys said, even if they rightly deserve your rage. Be authentic, using simple phrases like “I have heard this,” “You have been accused of this,” “I’m having a hard time reconciling this” and “Can you tell me what’s going on?” suggested Wright, and realize they may or may not be truthful. Listen for the “music” in between their words, Borys added: Do they seem contrite and self-reflective, or defensive and disparaging of their alleged victim(s)?
Decide whether you want to maintain the relationship. Consider the act itself — for example, a lone transgression might be more forgivable than a longstanding pattern of bad behavior, Wright said — as well as the level of your relationship with the person and the degree to which they’ve expressed remorse or tried to make amends. “If you’re the kind of person who can support a perpetrator towards moving towards accountability and better behavior, while still maintaining your own feelings of disappointment … I think we do need people who can do that,” she said. Alternatively, your friend may benefit from talking to a mental health professional.
Remember: It’s your choice to speak publicly about this. “You don’t have to answer questions that people ask you. You don’t have to justify your friendship with somebody,” said Wright. “That being said, when we don’t come forward and condemn or provide our opinion, then it has the potential to maintain that status quo — that we don’t talk about this sort of stuff, that it should all stay hidden. So there’s two sides of that coin.”
This article was updated Jan. 22, 2018, after Alison Brie addressed allegations against James Franco at the SAG Awards.
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