Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and director James Toback has been accused of sexual assault by 38 women, including actresses Julianne Moore, Rachel McAdams, and Selma Blair. The story broke this past week in the LA Times when hundreds of women told similar stories of their time with Toback. “I felt like a prostitute, an utter disappointment to myself, my parents, my friends. And I deserved not to tell anyone,” said actress Adrienne LaValley.
Toback claims he had never met any of the women speaking out against him. He then said that if he had met them it “was for five minutes and (he had) no recollection.” Toback also said that for the last 22 years, he could not have assaulted anyone or performed such inappropriate behavior as these women recount due to the fact that he had diabetes and a heart condition that required medication. According to the LA Times, he said the very idea of him committing these acts was “biologically impossible” and then declined to elaborate.
On Sunday, Sari Kamin, Starr Rinaldi, and Terri Conn, three women claiming to have been assaulted by Toback, spoke on NBC’s Nightly News to share their stories. 37-year-old Kamin told CNN that she met Toback in 2003 while making copies of a script in New York. She was elated at the thought of “being discovered” by such a high-profile man in Hollywood and did not want to ruin the opportunity to work with him.
Later that night, he convinced her to come up to his hotel room. Once there, he instructed her to take off her clothes, Kamin remembers. She remained still, sitting near him, feeling afraid and uncomfortable but unsure what to do. He started rubbing his groin against her and she exclaimed, “Are you trying to get off?” He simply replied, “Absolutely,” Kamin said.
Another woman, Ashley McQueen, told CNN she was a flight attendant walking through the Los Angeles airport in 1998 when he stopped her. “The whole thing was so surreal,” she said. Toback, being the humble gentleman he is, brought up his movie, Harvard Man, and he gave her “homework” to watch his films. They met again on multiple occasions, running errands together and going to films on location. McQueen remembers an occasion in his hotel when he said to her, “I don’t have a lot of time to get to know you, I need to get to know your soul so for now, I need you to get out of your clothes. I need to get to know you through my fingers,” she said.
These allegations against Toback come off the heels of a similar scandal involving noted Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. His power and notoriety in the industry sparked outrage when more than 40 women spoke out against him, including a copious amount of well-known actresses such as Lupita Nyong’o, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Allegations of his unprofessional behavior have included both sexual assault and rape, which Weinstein has, using a spokeswoman, “unequivocally denied.”
At this point, the mass number of women who have been brave enough to come forward and share their private experiences across social media have exposed the scale of this crisis. It’s time to make an example out of men like Toback and Weinstein to show others that no amount of money or power excuses sexual assault.
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