Robin Williams allegedly ‘flashed, humped, grabbed’ his co-star: Why this story is so unfair.

This morning we woke to the headline: “Robin Williams accused of groping, flashing and humping Mork and Mindy co-star“.

Understandably, things looked bad.

Pam Dawber, the 65-year-old actress who worked alongside Williams in the American sitcom Mork and Mindy, has said in an upcoming biography of the late actor that she had “the grossest things done to [her] by him”.

“I mean I was flashed, humped, bumped, grabbed,” she recalls.

Quotes from the biography, written by New York Times journalist Dave Itzkoff, have been published by The Daily Mail, and include Dawber’s statement, “I think he probably did it to a lot of people…

“If you put it on paper you would be appalled,” she says, but Williams got away with it because it was the ’70s.

That’s the funny thing about a biography; now, it is on paper. Many papers, in fact.

And, upon first glance, it does look appalling.

Robin Williams and Pam Dawber. Image via Mork & Mindy.
Robin Williams and Pam Dawber. Image via Mork & Mindy.

Until, of course, you read a critical five word sentence that has been conveniently omitted by some headlines around the world.

"And I never took offence."

Dawber also describes their relationship as, "so much fun" - begging the question why this is making news at all.

Given the definition of sexual harassment explicitly states, "the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks," it is factually incorrect, not to mention irresponsible, to describe Williams' alleged actions in such terms; terms which have been adopted by countless new sites, and terms which Dawber herself has never used.

Dawber has described her relationship with the actor, who died in 2014, as 'sibling-like', speaking to the unusual yet consented upon dynamics of their work relationship.

But the emergence of this story, in light of the broader Me Too movement, confronts us with yet another ethical dilemma.

What do we do with allegations that pertain to men who are no longer here to defend themselves?

How can we follow a fair, judicial process, when one person has a voice, and the other does not?

Of course, the suffering of a victim does not end the moment their perpetrator dies. They are entitled, unequivocally, to tell their story.

But how can we determine the truth and seek retribution for a victim, when there can be no trial?

These are questions that we do not yet have the answers to. But when we saw the headlines referring to Williams this morning, for a moment, it looked like we were going to have to confront them.

Williams - as far as we know - does not belong anywhere near the likes of Harvey Weinstein or Dr Larry Nassar.

We do not want, at this historical moment, to wade into the waters of consensual adult relationships.

There is far too much work to be done in the spaces outside of that.

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