By Jim Denney
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was the first to fall. In early October 2017, several courageous women stepped forward and accused Weinstein of various acts of sexual misconduct including sexual harassment, assault, and rape. So far, more than eighty women have joined in the accusations. Weinstein was fired from the motion picture company he co-founded, and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He may soon face criminal charges in Los Angeles, New York, and London.
The fall of Harvey Weinstein has led many other women to share their experiences and name powerful sexual predators in the entertainment industry, the news media, and the halls of government. In the past, women have bravely come forward to tell their stories only to be ignored, threatened, or ridiculed. For years, powerful men like Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and Bill O’Reilly got away with the abuse or exploitation of women because no one would listen to their accusers.
The Longest Trek by Grace lee Whtiney, with Jim Denney.
Today, women are being heard because of a phenomenon called “the Weinstein effect.” They are sharing their experiences with the world on social media under the hashtag #MeToo. The downfall of Harvey Weinstein has tilted the scales of justice in favor of victims instead of rich and powerful predators.
As a result, many previously unsuspected abusers have been identified and toppled: Today show host Matt Lauer, TV host Charlie Rose, Congressman John Conyers, Alabama senatorial nominee Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken, actor Danny Masterson, Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons, theater director Israel Horovitz, comedian Louis C.K., actor Kevin Spacey, NPR news editor David Sweeney, DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza, Disney-Pixar animation chief John Lasseter, motion picture producer-director Brett Ratner, and screenwriter-director James Toback, to name a few.
I hope this cultural shift is permanent. I hope we never go back to a time and place where predatory men can sexually violate people under their influence and intimidate them into silence. This issue is deeply, personally important to me for several reasons.
First, I’m a husband, father, and grandfather. If I learned that one of these predators had come after my wife, daughter, or granddaughter, I would want to use every legal and moral means to make him wish he hadn’t. And I want justice for all the wives, daughters, and granddaughters who have been used and abused by the likes of Harvey Weinstein, John Conyers, Roy Moore, and the rest.
Second, in the early 1990s, I was negotiating a multi-book deal with a major publisher and an author who was also a pastor. I was to take this pastor’s sermons and turn them into books. As we were about to go to contract on the multi-book deal, I learned that several women in his church had made accusations of sexual misconduct against this pastor. Later, more accusers came forward. I terminated the book deal and I learned a lot about how to spot a sexual predator — and the importance of holding them accountable so they can’t harm more victims.
Third, in 1997, I worked with actress Grace Lee Whitney on her autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. Grace portrayed Yeoman Janice Rand of the Starship Enterprise, the simmering love interest for Captain James T. Kirk.
In her book, Grace told a harrowing story of being raped by a studio executive during the production of Star Trek. On Friday, August 26, 1966, the Star Trek cast and crew completed the day’s shooting and called a halt for the weekend. They were halfway through the filming of “Miri,” the eleventh episode of the series (though it would be the eighth segment aired, because episodes were shown out of order).
As was the custom on the Star Trek set, every Friday ended with a party. Cast, crew, and executives would gather for drinks and conversation and laughs. During the party, an important and powerful studio executive took Grace aside. He said he wanted to talk to her about expanding her role on the Star Trek series.
He suggested they leave the party and go over to the E Building on the Desilu studio lot, where they wouldn’t be disturbed. They went and found an unlocked office, then settled in and began talking. He had been drinking. So had she.
Grace goes on to explain how this man first attempted to seduce her, using a combination of alcohol and glib talk, until she finally realized why he had maneuvered her into an empty office in an empty building, late at night. Once his real intentions became clear, it was too late for her to escape. This man had complete power over her future. He could make her or break her professionally. As she resisted him, he became increasingly more violent, until she feared for her life.
Finally, she stopped resisting, and he proceeded to rape her.
A few days later, after she completed work on “Miri,” her agent called and told her she had been fired from the show. Her firing could have only been ordered by the man who had sexually assaulted her. Grace Lee Whitney’s character, Yeoman Rand, had a brief part in the next episode, “The Conscience of the King” — an appearance lasting less than ten seconds. Then she was out — gone from the show before the first episode aired.
The book tells the story of her descent into alcoholism and self-destruction — and how a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ while visiting her son in Israel set her on the road to recovery. Of all the books I’ve written, The Longest Trek is one of my favorites by far. More than a Hollywood memoir, it’s the story of a woman’s journey through sexual abuse, alcoholism, and despair, concluding with her salvation and redemption.
After her conversion to Christ, Grace Lee Whitney lived her life to serve God and others. She passed into the presence of her Lord on May 1, 2015, at the age of eighty-five. It was one of the great privileges of my life to have worked with Grace to help her tell her amazing story.
You may be wondering — who was the man who raped her, then tossed her off the show? Who was the Harvey Weinstein of Star Trek? I can’t tell you his name. In the book, we decided to refer to this man only as “The Executive.” Even though he was dead by the time Grace and I worked together, Grace told me she could not name this man, nor could she blame him for her alcoholism. She believed that if she publicly exposed his identity, she would lose her sobriety. She asked me to honor her wishes, and I have agreed to do so.
If you want to read a truly inspiring story that echoes the experience of so many women who have been sexually exploited or sexually assaulted by powerful, predatory men, I think you’ll enjoy The Longest Trek. You’ll find Grace’s story as uplifting and inspiring as I did. You can find The Longest Trek at Amazon.com, with a foreword by Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) and an endorsement by William Shatner (Captain Kirk).
Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more. —J.D.