opinion

There are two crucial words missing from the first harassment “apology” out of Hollywood.

Last week, comedian, Louis CK “apologised” for masturbating in front of five women against their will.

“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my d**k without asking first, which is also true,” the 50-year-old said in a statement acknowledging his actions.

“The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

For many people, this was enough. CK was the first of a suite of sexual harassers recently exposed to the masses who acknowledged his actions.

But while his words shone in comparison to the statements of denial and misplaced blame made by fellow Hollywood sexual harassers like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, it’s the words he left out that would have meant the most.

Two words: I’m sorry.

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It’s true, apologies are hard to get right. In some circumstances, there are things no words can fix. But we try. We say sorry. Because it’s not about us or what we did. It’s about the person we hurt, and how they feel, regardless of whether we thought we were unaware of what we were doing at the time or not.

In CK’s apology, he spoke of his power. The power of his talent, and his penis, that he wielded over others.

“But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question.”

He took responsibility for actions he said he now knows were wrong.

“I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions.”

He didn’t deny. He didn’t deflect. He is aware. He seems to have learned.

But sadly, he also didn’t directly acknowledge his victims. He didn’t acknowledge the power he stole from five capable, intelligent women, and the pain, embarrassment and shame that his actions caused them, extending far beyond the acts themselves.

In 85 words or less, Louis C.K said what so many Hollywood sexual harassers failed to. But it's the words he left out that matter the most. Image: Getty.
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By omitting the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologise", CK's apology was all about him.

It needed to be about them.

Even though 'there is nothing about this that he forgives himself for', that forgiveness is not his to give.

For CK's victims, those two words could have helped to provide closure. But instead, he has even more power because 'I'm sorry' would have made him vulnerable, and he made a choice not to appear that way.

But unlike CK, those five women didn't have a choice to be vulnerable.

Apologies like this put us in a difficult position. We need them, to show other perpetrators the way forward. But we also need more.

Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, and the three other women who, in coming forward, forced themselves to relive moments they would give anything not to have experienced, deserve more. Every woman who has experienced abuse like they have deserves more.

When the bar has been set so low, even the smallest of movements can look like a win for women.

Yes, it's a first step. But there are lots more to go.

You can read Louis C.K's full statement here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault or harassment, or mental health issues, please seek professional help and or contact 1800 RESPECT or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud explains why Kevin Spacey's response to sexual assault claims isn't good enough...