“Hug me, Brotha!”
A catch phrase most kids growing up in the 2000s probably know. An excited Josh Peck would boast this phrase anytime he wanted his on-TV step-brother, Drake Bell, to hug him during a touching moment. Being one of those kids growing up in the 2000s, you could find Drake and Josh on my TV multiple times a week, as I’m sure you could on most pre-teens televisions during this time. The iconic duo, with their hilarious antics and relatable teen-type of situations, was a great way to fall asleep at night, or even use as background noise during the day. Drake (Drake Bell), Josh (Josh Peck), and Megan (Miranda Cosgrove) quickly became household names that many knew during this time period. They were relatable, cool, and well liked by many fans.
Nearly 15 years later, these iconic names still remain in the hearts of many millennial children, whether it be from Drake and Josh or another known piece they have since been in, like The Amanda Show or iCarly. When the news broke that Drake Bell was pleading guilty to child endangerment, and admitting to sending messages that were sexual in nature, it was almost unbelievable. How could this man that I remember so fondly from my early teenage years as being funny with normal-brother antics, be charged with and plead guilty to such an ugly crime?
The victim in this recent case stated that Bell sent her explicit pictures when she was just 15 years old, and I cannot even begin to wrap my head around it. This incident is said to have happened in 2017 and 2018. Drake Bell is currently 35 years old, meaning that when these actions took place, he was in his 30s. I was only a few years younger than this victim when I watched Bell on my TV screen. At 15 years old, I can remember myself being star-struck by actors and actresses. I can imagine exactly how this victim felt getting attention from a dreamy celebrity.
When news broke about this case, I had so many questions. Did Bell do this because he believed he could get away with it? Did he use his fame and notoriety to do whatever he wanted? Did he even think about the consequences? Or how he would be hurting someone else? And then I also question if it’s the whole culture that celebrities have learned. A study shows that nearly 94% of women in Hollywood have experienced some form of sexual assault or abuse. Ninety-four percent. Let that sink in. At that rate it becomes nothing less than a culture. Whatever the truth is behind why Bell did this, none of it is okay. None of it is a valid reason to prey on a 15 year old. The victim did not ask for this. She did not deserve it. She was a 15 year old girl excited to be acknowledged by someone with status.
Whether a perpetrator is in the spotlight or someone random on the street, the act of sending unsolicited messages that are sexual in nature, and especially to those under-age, is despicable. We often hold stars to higher standards because they are in the spotlight and can help teach right from wrong. Stars do deserve privacy to live their lives, but they do not deserve the right to do anything that they want or endanger those around them. Those in the spotlight should hold themselves to higher standards to protect those who cannot yet protect themselves. Celebrities should strive to teach what is right and to not use their fame to hurt others. To those who have experienced sexual abuse or violence in any way, I urge you to reach out and get the support you deserve. Whether it’s because of someone in the spotlight, a known and trusted friend or family member, or someone random on the street, your story matters. At A Voice for the Innocent, we believe you. We hear you. And you are not alone.