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My Cold, Hard Truth As a Trauma Survivor and Student of James Franco

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Back in February, I was one of the many people who saw the news of James Franco reaching a settlement with two former classmates in court. For those of you who didn’t know, Franco and his colleagues were sued back in 2018 for sexual misconduct, including inappropriate behavior in a class I was part of called “Sex Scenes” in 2015.

• What is PTSD?

This is the cold, hard truth when it comes to someone who is viewed as “powerful” and has fame and fortune: even when they are deemed and called out for being abusers, they will still have supporters even when the trial and court cases are all set and done.

Why? Because a lot of people see the survivors as so-called liars and frauds themselves; let alone if survivors take money to end the court trial as the end result. But the truth is when it comes to trauma, often the brain will block out that event or events. In other cases, the survivor themselves will put up a front as a denial, whether that is protecting the abuser(s) by saying how they are friends, lovers or so forth.

That is why many survivors of abuse struggle to come forward — because of multiple reasons. One of the reasons is not being believed, getting “slut-shamed” or, to be honest, losing people who thought were their supporters and friends. Regardless, if a survivor happened to sleep with the predator, just remember that abuse comes in other forms such as mental, emotional and verbal.

The truth is when it comes to trauma, our bodies do everything they can to block it out, or at least that was what my own therapist has told me over the past eight or so years in treatment. Trauma is real and it happens, even by the hand of so-called celebrities and people in the entertainment industry.

Like many eager students in 2015, I was in awe from learning by Franco on the first day of his master class, “Sex Scenes.” I was already a student at Studio 4 and my teacher prior to Franco referred me over to the master class. But over the course of the next two months, that all went to hell. I lost respect for Franco and the school.

The first red flag was being invited to the production headquarters to interview with two of Franco’s business partners. When I first showed up, I noticed the address led me to a house. “No biggie,” I thought as I approached the front door. One of the men answered it and immediately the company’s (I guess) assistant sat me down. I spoke with the other man, who was seated at a desk in the corner, for a bit. I felt safe and sound, until the business partner reappeared from a hallway at the end of the room and said we would be having the interview in one of the rooms. At the time, I didn’t think much about it, considering their assistant/colleague was a woman in her 30 or 40s and was friendly with me. In my mind, I thought, what woman would put another woman in danger?

Well, that was the irony because as I followed him through the hallway and turned the corner, I immediately saw a bed in the room where he was taking me. I sat by the door the entire time; the door remained open. The interview was a disaster. I remembered him sort of looking at my resumé, bored out of his mind. The worse part, something I told the lawyers when I was reached out to about a year or so ago, was leaving the room to find the female colleague no longer in the office. She was gone; it was just me and the two men in their 30 to 40s. At the time, I was 23 years old and felt I was in trusted hands.

Later, I learned the female assistant/colleague was one of the many women who was protecting Franco and his team. From what I was told by the lawyers, Franco had women in his circle who would purposely bring him other women to hook up with or ones he was interested in.

I actually experienced so much physical and emotional stress from the “sex scenes” master class that I ended up losing my appetite and missing my menstrual cycle for a few months. At the time, I was also in therapy and my therapist was even shocked at how the class was being run. This included James falling asleep in class multiple times to making a comment to the class on how we should not be compared because we had “two months” to make a short while he was so-called busting his ass to make a feature in one month.

Down the line, I learned these physical and mental matters were from stress from the class due to multiple reasons. A lot of the students in the class (again, not everyone) were leeching off Franco and did whatever it took to be closer to him, or flat-out hook up with him.

Although Franco and his peers never sexually violated me, that does not mean they were not inappropriate in other ways both to myself and the other students. First off, and now with the case at an end, I can finally say that James Franco and most of his inner circle are frauds, rude, narcissists and predators. Without disclosing names or hints of who it is, I encountered many survivors of Franco and his peers’ abuse. Most of them were initially trying to sleep with Franco but the fact is, they were harmed in a lot of ways. Whether that was Franco and his team lowballing students to work with him on his production, to only asking specific women to join them (basically, if you went naked in class). Of course, there was the obvious of James and his peers pressuring women to go nude on their films or they would send them home.

Google it — the facts are there.

The problem with “cancel culture” is too many people affiliate it with survivors. A sad reality is whenever we see someone in a position of power get called out for inappropriate behavior or acts of sexual assault, too many people immediately see the survivors or people who support the survivors as “jumping on the cancel culture bandwagon.” But the truth is rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault, emotional abuse, physical abuse and verbal abuse are never part of “cancel culture” nor should be affiliated with it.

Believe survivors the next time they come forward. Do your research on how trauma does affect one’s mental and physical state. And if you have nothing supportive to say about the survivor(s), I encourage you to reread the court documents and look at how individuals such as Franco and his peers have acted. To me, something I learned about my own abuse in therapy, is that a predator knows how to charm and work to fool their audience that they are the so-called “victims” in the situation(s). So, of course, the predator will deny and deny and do everything they can to cover up their tracks. But often, predators slip and start revealing their true colors. My own abusers did that to themselves by always badmouthing me to family and friends. Well, the same case goes with Franco when he said back in 2018 of making things right if he harmed anyone. Only he slipped when he commented in 2020 how the women who were suing him were just “jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon.”

It’s difficult for many survivors to come forward with their own abuse. Remember, there are different forms of abuse. Before second-guessing a survivor, instead, listen to them. Let them know you are here for them.

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Originally published: March 22, 2021
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