Russell Brand and Rape Culture

Comedy Features Russell Brand
Russell Brand and Rape Culture

As you’ve likely heard already, four women have accused comedian and actor Russell Brand of sexually assaulting them between 2006 and 2013. Exhaustive investigative reporting by The Sunday Times, The Times, and Channel 4 Dispatches lays out the details of the allegations, including the fact that one of the women was only 16 when Brand attacked her. Though 16 is the legal age of consent in the UK, the accusations are stomach-turning, especially considering Brand was 30 when he began grooming her. 

Russell Brand’s behavior (the article also notes his alleged harassment of female employees and fellow comedians as well as his abuse of partners) was an open secret in the entertainment industry. It’s a story that feels well-trodden and nearly predictable at this point; women working near Brand were warned about him, but nothing was ever done to properly stop him from preying on others. He played up his promiscuity and sex addiction as a “smokescreen for a lot more of his dark behavior,” Alice, the woman who Brand allegedly groomed when she was 16, told The Times. Brand even joked around with Jimmy Savile, the English DJ who was posthumously outed as a pedophile after years of rumors, about bringing Brand’s personal assistant to Savile naked. Savile was the poster boy for the sexual abuser hiding in plain sight, using an outlandish personality to deflect any accusations. 

I don’t even know what to say, or what I can add to the conversation here. This feels like a terrible song I already know all the lyrics to. I feel for the women he hurt. I understand why one of them told the Rape Treatment Center (RTC) at UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center that she wouldn’t press charges because she “didn’t think [her] words would mean anything up against his.” I felt the same way when I was assaulted. I get why they all decided to remain anonymous (and fuck those weirdos who still claim that people accuse celebrities of sexual assault in order to get famous or rich—that makes no sense). I’m not surprised that the only comedian willing to put his name on the record for the investigation was a man: Daniel Sloss, who mentioned in a 2023 interview with Paste that “there is a sexual predator on the circuit, and every single stand-up comedian knows who it is.” A female comedian spoke about her experiences with Russell Brand in The Times investigative piece, but I understand why she wanted to do so anonymously—otherwise you’re labeled as a victim, and your name is forever associated with his. You’re a footnote in someone else’s horrific story. 

Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of writing about another man who people knew was dangerous yet did nothing about, I took a walk around my neighborhood. Autumn had finally arrived in Dublin, and I was relieved I could break out my sweaters again. In my search for a peaceful moment, I found myself at St. Audeon’s Church, the oldest parish church in Dublin, dating back to 1190. Portlester Chapel lies to the east of the bulk of the building, and now stands there roofless, Gothic arches jutting fruitlessly toward the blue sky. Small green stalks have tucked themselves into the cracks between rough gray stones, and the ground is covered with graves whose occupants’ names have long since worn away. I wove in between the headstones, finding some serenity as I contemplated my surroundings. How many people had passed between those stone slabs? How many carried a deep, aching pain in their hearts, not just for themselves, but for everyone who’s been violated?  How many had also stared up at the stark, vestigial skeleton of the chapel? How many will do so after me? Surely at some point a passerby looked at the squat, unassuming building, thinking that it would stand there forever. And yet, one part of it has already crumbled.

The Me Too movement felt like it would change everything when it burst into the mainstream nearly six years ago. It certainly has helped shape our culture, even if only slightly, to better resemble one where survivors are met with healing and justice. We know the reality is still so very far from that goal, though. Rape culture is ever present, a behemoth casting its shadows over us. However, the exposure of predators is a step in the right direction, revealing the desolate, still-standing structures of silence and sexism.

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.

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