LOS ANGELES — In his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards on Sunday night, a teary Leonardo DiCaprio dedicated his best acting Oscar to victims of bear rapes.
“It’s not easy for any man to talk about getting sexually assaulted by a giant grizzly bear, no matter how macho or strong you think you are,” DiCaprio said in front of a packed auditorium at Dolby Theatre. “I am dedicating my award to victims of not just grizzly rapes, but rapes by every kind of bear.”
One Hollywood source estimates that a screen actor is raped by a bear at least once every three days, while others say that such attacks only happen once a month.
DiCaprio, who still walks with a limp 14 months after the savage attack that occurred during filming of “The Revenant,” says that he doesn’t blame the bear, but blames society for making bear rapes a taboo subject.
“I’m not the first actor to be raped by a mammal three times my own size, but I hope to be the last,” he added. “We need to warn every aspiring actor about the dangers of what can happen when they’re alone with a wild animal in front of a film crew.”
Experts say that the number of sexual assaults on stars by trained animals is on the rise despite several prominent awareness campaigns, including one launched by Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was among the first to broach the subject after she was allegedly molested by Garfield the Cat in 2004.
Most large film productions starring animals employ a full-time, on-site animal rape educator, and even smaller productions often provide counseling services to actors who feel like animals on set are “giving that look,” says Hilda Beest, a veterinarian psychologist whose 2009 book “Beyond Leg Humping” is considered a seminal work in the field.
“Oftentimes, actors are totally unaware of the signals they give off when they pet animals,” she said. “A playful rub under the chin can mean something else entirely to a male chimpanzee in a baseball cap who hasn’t been allowed to mate for months.”