Variety: ‘A TV Executive Sexually Assaulted Me: A Critic’s Personal Story’

Maureen Ryan writes:

I told a lie in 2015. A lie to save my life.

I wrote a post in May of that year telling people I was taking two months off to deal with family issues. It wasn’t entirely a falsehood. My father had died about a year earlier and my mother was dying (she passed away last fall). The last few years were a difficult, grindingly draining time that changed me enormously.

Still, my parents’ illnesses and deaths didn’t break me. The television executive who sexually assaulted me in 2014 broke me.

And that was the real reason I took that leave in 2015: I needed to heal, mentally and spiritually, and I had to think about whether I even wanted to stay in this industry…

The television executive who assaulted me was the boyfriend of someone I’d known in the industry for some time. I did not think the boyfriend of someone I knew would assault me. I did not think he would do it at an industry-adjacent event. I did not think he would make a sexually crude, harassing remark about me in front of dozens of people, which was extremely embarrassing.

I did not think that, a short time later, he would put his hands on me and say utterly disgusting things. I did not think he would come after me again, and then, when I’d moved away, grope me again, and hiss more even more crude, humiliating things into my ear. He came after me three times in total. He hunted me. The word predator works on so many levels.

This guy is not friendless. Before he attacked me, I thought he seemed like a reasonable, regular guy. Just know that he is not some outlier, not someone whose demeanor or cocktail-party chatter would indicate that anything was amiss. He seemed utterly normal.

I know what it’s like to be shocked by what a fellow human is capable of, because that night, and for so long after, I was stunned into disbelief. After I finally got away from him, we exited the venue together — me, the guy, his girlfriend. I’m not much of an actress, but my performance as “Person Who Is Holding It Together As If Everything Is Fine” was credible. The process of falling apart was a long one.

It took me weeks to accept that what he did that night fit the definition of sexual assault. I looked up legal codes online for months. An old draft of this piece — I’ve written so many versions of this story — called it sexual harassment. That was part of it. But when someone puts their hands on you, certainly in areas in which you do not want and have not invited their hands, that’s assault.

I reported him to his company. Spoiler alert: Nothing happened.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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