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An Ever-Growing List of Rape Allegations: A Look Into Information Cascade Effects

In the past few months, we have seen an absolute explosion of rape and sexual harassment allegations made by dozens of women against prominent figures in politics and the entertainment industry. Men such as Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Al Franken, George H.W. Bush, and Charlie Rose are just a few of the men who have been accused recently. It is interesting to note that many of these allegations of sexual harassment or rape did not actually occur recently; many occurred years, even decades ago. So why is there the sudden surge of victims coming forward to share their stories?

Let’s take famous comedian and celebrity Louis C.K. as an example. Several women have come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment, speaking of horrifying situations where C.K. has isolated them and masturbated without consent in front of them. Allegations against him started years ago, when “Gawker posted a blind item about an unidentified male comedian who forced two women to watch him masturbate” and then later released an article that the male comic they were referring to was C.K.. However, it wasn’t after the release of allegations against Harvey Weinstein in early October of this year, which caused a momentum of other allegations against other celebrities, that allegations for Louis C.K. began; all at once, 5 women came forward and recounted their encounters.

This phenomenon could be explained by the information cascade model. In theory, behavior between individuals can become like a cascade. Once an individual sees the behavior of others, they may become influenced to adopt that behavior as well. In this situation, as victims of rape and sexual assault observe other victims coming forward with their stories, they feel more encouraged and inspired to come forward with their own stories. They feel more safe and secure coming out with their stories now, because they observe that other victims are being heard and believed. This could explain why stories from decades ago are just coming into the light, as they felt scared and like they would be dismissed if they had come out then. Therefore, seeing victims come forward with sexual harassment allegations increases the probability of other victims coming forward, which then encourages more victims, and so on and so forth, setting the cascade into motion.

Sexual misconduct allegations continue to be released everyday; and while they expose the sickening prevalence of rape and sexual harassment still present in society today, the open and nonjudgmental environment and the real repercussions to the accused are a beacon of hope that in the future, this taboo topic will be dealt with better and victims will feel safe enough to accuse their abusers immediately.




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November 2017