In the wake of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson — largely credited with helping other female victims of sexual harassment break from their silence — has revealed several new accounts of sexual harassment she experienced throughout her career in the limelight.
Carlson sued the late founder and CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes, who passed away in May, for sexual harassment on July 6, 2016. Carlson subsequently reached a $20 million settlement with Fox’s parent company, 21st Century.
In a piece for In-Style this weekend, Carlson described how she was twice assaulted during her time as Miss America in 1989 and once while she was a novice news reporter at a local station in Virginia.
Her piece, she says, is her way of encouraging other women to speak up about sexual harassment.
“Until recently, I had never publicly told any of these stories,” Carlson wrote. “In our culture, if you speak up against sexual harassment, you’re labeled a troublemaker, a bitch, or worse. Twenty-five years later, you’d think things would have changed, but after my story made headlines last year, I found out that, even in 2017, every woman still has a story.”
In one instance, a high-powered TV executive lunged at her and stuck his tongue down her throat after dinner:
After dinner, in the back seat of a car, he suddenly lunged at me, sticking his tongue down my throat. He was on top of me and I couldn’t move. Flustered, shocked, and panicked, I somehow got away from him and screamed for the driver to stop the car. I ran up to a friend’s apartment and just started bawling.
Carlson said the second time she was sexually assaulted “was in Los Angeles with a powerful PR executive. Once we were in his car, he grabbed my neck and jammed it against his crotch so forcefully, I couldn’t breathe; eventually I was able to break free and run away. It stunned me because there had been no warning; we were going to get something to eat after meeting in his office.”
Her decision to make her voice heard, Carlson said, “was the biggest decision of my life.” She feared the consequences of what coming out with the truth would do to her career and two preteen children. “But with my 50th birthday looming, I saw an opportunity. Women are socialized to look at 50 as a negative moment—when your body starts falling apart, you go through menopause, and you start looking older and maybe gain weight—and I wanted to defy that. I marked the milestone by speaking truth to power.”
The results have been “amazing.” According to her accounts, “Women from all over the world started reaching out to tell me their stories—many for the first time ever. But now they felt a sense of victory and validation.”
The spate of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein is likely to change the tides in the entertainment industry. If anything, Carlson may be to thank for contributing her voice to this change.
Read Carlson’s entire op-ed at In-Style here .