In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, more and more women are coming forward about other reportedly predatory men in Hollywood. In a Los Angeles Times piece, 38 women have accused writer and director James Toback of sexual harassment. According to their stories, Toback would approach women in public and tell them that he was a famous movie director and that he had “invented” Robert Downey Jr. Then he would allegedly tell them that he could make them famous in meetings that would quickly turn to sexual harassment and abuse.
Although 31 of the 38 women the Times interviewed spoke on record, Toback denied the allegations in a statement to the newspaper. He claims that he never met any of the women, or that if he did it “was for five minutes” and he had no recollection of it. In addition to that, he alleged that a heart condition and diabetes made it “biologically impossible” for him to engage with women sexually for over 22 years. None of the women had ever contacted the police about the encounters.
Actress Adrienne LaValley said that she encountered him in 2008 in a hotel room and that he presented it like “This is how things are done,” she said. LaValley alleged that he tried to rub his crotch on her leg and that she pulled back, but he only stood up and ejaculated in his pants.
Starr Rinaldi, another actress, said that Toback approached her in New York’s Central Park years ago. “In a weird sense, I thought, ‘This is a test of whether I’m a real artist and serious about acting,” she said of their encounters. “He always wanted me to read for him in a hotel or come back to his apartment, like, ‘How serious are you about your craft?’” Other women report similar incidents. They felt like they had to comply with his requests if they wanted more work in the business.
James Toback is now 72 years old and had a reputation as a “womanizer” in Hollywood.
A profile in Spy magazine in 1989 addressed some “creepy behavior.” However, nothing ever came of it, according to the Times. Luckily, the fact that more women are speaking out about abuse after the Weinstein allegations has empowered others to do the same. There’s something about hearing and trusting other women’s accounts that has sparked the urge to speak up now about their experiences with predatory men.
It’s been tough and sickening for many women to hear the seemingly endless allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein, and now others like Toback. But if it weren’t for their voices, the culture wouldn’t be slowly changing as it is now. Instead of feeling shame or embarrassment around the incidents, there’s something about the safety in numbers that is making it safer — if not easier — to treat the conduct as what it is. Abuse.
Hopefully, more women will feel able to come forward about their own experiences and begin healing as they’re believed. And more of the alleged predators will be dealt with in accordance with the law instead of hiding in plain sight.