On Thursday evening, Qantas Airlines hosted an event at Sydney, Australia’s Sebel Pier One celebrating the return of the popular sitcom Modern Family, which was shooting in the city. Shortly after arriving, however, one of the show’s cast-members, Sarah Hyland, decided to leave after becoming the victim of sexual assault by a fan, who – in a swift turn of justice – was then arrested.
Reportedly, a man groped the 23-year-old actress’s breast after taking a picture with her. Hyland stood her ground, pushed the man away, and called him out, yelling at him not to touch her. This escalation in the fan interaction prompted security to step in before anything potentially violent could occur.
As a celebrity, it is part of Sarah Hyland’s job to negotiate fan interactions; it is by no means necessary for her to stop for photos or to give autographs, but she was kind enough to do so at this event. She took time out of her night, which was meant to be a celebration in honor of the cast of Modern Family, in order to make some of her fans who showed up to the event happy. Unfortunately, as it so often goes with women in the spotlight, this yet unnamed man decided to take advantage of her kindness.
The incident left the actor so shaken up that she felt the need to remove herself from the event. She left in tears and courteously tweeted out her apology to any fans who she didn’t get to greet.
Luckily for Sarah Hyland, her sexual assault was taken seriously and some justice was swiftly served. Reports say that police arrested a 29-year-old man and charged him with indecent assault.
Too often women who are sexually assaulted are too afraid to speak out, or not taken seriously when they do speak out. It is unfortunate that Hyland had to experience something that obviously left her emotionally shaken up, but she was notably brave in how she handled the situation. After calling attention to the incident, she removed herself before anything else could happen.
There is a rising trend in Hollywood of women in the film industry standing up for themselves when previously it would be expected of them to sit back and quietly accept sexism and misogyny. Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway have both publicly addressed reporters for asking them questions reserved specifically for actresses, such as questions about their diets for certain roles, their fashion choices, and whether or not they wore underwear in certain costumes. Sarah Hyland is one of the first to be subjected to something physical like this from a fan, and her actions show that she is not far removed from the other women in the industry.
She may be young, but Sarah Hyland handled a very difficult and, no doubt, traumatizing incident of sexual assault with bravery and poise, showing that her capacity for seeking justice for herself is at a level akin to many of the other outspoken women in Hollywood. No one deserves to be subjected to this kind of violation by anyone, let alone at the hands of someone who claimed to be her fan. Celebrities are human beings and deserve as much respect as anyone, and more if they are taking time out of their schedule to appeal to fans when they don’t actually have to do that at all.
By Robin Syrenne