Actress and author Sheryl Lee Ralph has spoken out about her experiences with sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood.
While promoting her new book, DIVA 2.0: 12 Life Lessons From Me For You in a recent interview with Way Up with Angela Yee, Ralph shared two separate incidents where she was touched inappropriately and encouraged to remain silent.
The assault took place while Ralph was working on a television show in Hollywood for the same network as her abuser, and everyone at the network witnessed the incident. Despite the support of the then-mayor of New Orleans, who offered to take action against her assailant, network executives urged Ralph not to report the crime in order to avoid negative publicity for the show.
The second incident involved repeated harassment from another person, who eventually put his hands on Ralph’s body in front of others. When Ralph confronted him, she was met with disbelief and criticism from those around her. The experience left her questioning what she had done to deserve such treatment and feeling ashamed for speaking up.
“There was one incident where it was like the 3rd time something like this had happened to me, and I thought to myself, ‘what did I do to deserve that….’ what made this man think that he could just come over and put his hands on my body, in front of–he didn’t know me,” Ralph said.
“He sat down at the table across from me. He did not remember any of this, but I had to let him know what he did that night…He was right there, I had to confront him about it. Do you want to know what was the shocking part? Everybody around the table was appalled that I would stand up for myself. They were appalled. They told me I should be ashamed of myself, and why would I even bring that up,” she continued.
“This was a famous TV judge….I’m at a very public place. I was suited, I was handling my business for the television show I was on at that time. We were on the same network. This man walked in grabbed me by the back of my neck, turned me around and rammed his nasty tongue down my throat. And everybody at the network saw it,” she added.
“The mayor of New Orleans at the time was Marc Morial. I called Marc Morial, he said ‘you want me to send the police there right now? Because we will fix his – you know what – right now.’ Somebody at the network tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘please don’t.,” Ralph said.
Unfortunately, Ralph’s experiences are all too common in the entertainment industry, especially in Hollywood. By speaking out about her assault, Ralph hopes to inspire and support other women who may be struggling with similar experiences.
“It’s hard. I would say now-a-days, speak up, tell your truth. Do not carry the burden of that pain. Especially if it’s something you feel you cannot work through,” she urged.