SMC Alum Violet Paley speaks on the backlash against assault allegations
When former SMC student Violet Paley saw James Franco wearing a #timesup pin on TV on January 7, 2018, she typed out an acerbic tweet and hit send. Twitter was blowing up with women sharing their experiences of sexual abuse using the #timesup and #metoo hashtags, and Paley thought she’d maybe get a few likes and shares. She turned her phone off shortly afterward and hopped on a plane to Israel. When she arrived in Israel after a long-haul flight, she turned her phone on - and realized that “every news station ever had contacted me."
Paley is thin and fragile looking, with frail limbs, blunt-cut, white-blonde hair framing huge blue eyes which look tired and wise. She's just finished her first book: Frozen Oranges, a stream-of-consciousness quasi-memoir which she’s self-publishing on Amazon.
The book doesn't explicitly go into what happened with Franco but includes the lessons she's learned from the experience of publicly sharing her experiences and the larger message she feels compelled to speak out on: that assault, consent, and coercion are not black and white issues. “You can be raped by your boyfriend," Paley says. "You can marry your rapist.”
The title of her book refers to a coping mechanism she was taught when receiving treatment for her Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a condition she's extremely public about: “When you feel impulsive or panicky you grab the oranges and you put them to your face until you're freezing… and your impulses stop.”
She announces this to us in the same tone she uses to claim she was brutally raped when she was eighteen, that she doesn’t want to provide any more details about the alleged James Franco blow-job two years ago, or that we need to ignore the bottle of Prosecco underneath her table as “they’ll use it against me.”
Violet clearly wasn’t expecting the media onslaught that her tweet provoked. “I've gotten death threats and had to call the FBI after someone posted my mom's address on social media, and there's been like men’s rights activists that claim I'm a child rapist.”
She admits that her social media accounts did not depict her as the “perfect victim”: she is an admittedly “sex-positive” person, and her Instagram featured “almost naked” pictures, “something where I'm like with my friends and flashing and there's like an emoji over my nipples” - but despite criticism, she refused to edit or delete these pictures to cater to a preconceived notion of how a victim should behave.
Paley explains that the power dynamics between her and Franco were undeniably skewed. “What were the consequences of saying no?" she said. "My whole career was going to be over… Like he was going to hate me and never talk to me again like he did to my other friend... ”
Paley's alleged experience with Franco happened before the #metoo and #timesup movements made it more socially acceptable for women to start sharing their experiences of assault and abuse on a broader level, not just in relation to Hollywood power structures and the hierarchies of the casting couch.
"There's so many people who were coerced by [Harvey Weinstein], not raped - and they were victims too,” Paley says. She's using her platform, which she says she never wanted, to promote this message despite criticism against her.