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What I've Learned, | May 09, 2018

Jesse Eisenberg, actor and advocate


The Oscar-nominated star has worked with Middle Way House for nearly a decade.


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Jesse Eisenberg, a Middle Way House advocate, stands outside the Middle Way building. /Photo by Adele Poudrier

In Hollywood Jesse Eisenberg is known for movies like "The Social Network" and "Zombieland," but in Bloomington he's an advocate for Middle Way House, a domestic violence shelter that his mother-in-law Toby Strout directed for over 30 years. While a national conversation on sexual assault began in earnest last year, Eisenberg has contributed to the fight against the problem for almost 10 years. He started a $100,000 matching campaign that raised $600,000 for the local shelter. Now, he shares ideas on how we can help change the culture in Hollywood, Bloomington and beyond.

Victims are safer when a community rallies around them.

Toby Strout made a point to engage with the community rather than hide from it. A lot of domestic violence shelters are hidden in an attempt to protect residents, but Toby's method came from the idea that women are safer when the community rallies around them. 

We can't let micro-aggressions slide.

I've really recognized micro-aggressions or micro-examples that perpetuate assault against women. It starts with a fundamental disrespect or objectification or, in my industry, sexualization of young women. Something that I've always noticed in reading movie scripts is the men's physicality is never described and a woman's physicality, irrespective of her role, is described. So even if she is a woman who is not supposed to be sexualized by the storyline, her physicality is still discussed. I've become so much more acutely aware of the prevalence of it in the last decade.

Educating youths about healthy relationships is essential.

Education from a young age to not only report domestic violence but to understand healthy relationships and intimate partnerships is vital so the problem doesn't fester and become something much worse later. 

Almost everyone has been touched by domestic violence and sexual assault.

Doing a little investigating within your circle will reveal that you are surrounded by people who are affected by this. A simple way that all of us can get involved is by being a responsible partner to whomever we decide to be with.

We all must engage in changing the culture.

On the last movie I did, an actor was disrespectful to women in the costume department. He was let go without any hesitation. Everybody was proud to be working on a set that was looking out for the welfare of its crew.  More interesting was the casual attitude we had about someone being let go on a movie set, which is normally a big deal. You could just see, almost overnight, that the culture on a movie set is different. We were all aware that, yes, the culture has changed.

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