February 24, 2020 will forever mark a monumental day for sexual assault survivors and women everywhere. Monday morning, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of a criminal sex act in the first degree, and rape in the third degree against Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Yet, this trial signified much more than just a verdict. It was a tipping point for the #MeToo movement. Tarana Burke, activist known for starting the original #MeToo movement stated, “Most of us will never see the inside of the courtroom, but these women got to take the stand, look him in the eye and say, ‘You did this to me.’ He will forever be guilty. That’s a thing we have.” This trial proves that women will no longer be silenced. Further, this ruling proves that people who choose to take something not inherently theirs will be held responsible for their actions.
Weinstein also faced charges of predatory sexual assault and rape in the first degree but these were acquitted. Many of the allegations made against Weinstein were dismissed due to the fact they occurred too long ago to be upheld in court, according to New York State law. However, some of the women who came forward were able to take the stand as a means to add camaraderie to the chilling testimonies of Haleyi and Mann. One of these women was Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra who revealed Weinstein raped her in 1993.
Of course, Weinstein and his team insist that the sexual acts carried out were always consensual, at least in terms of Haleyi and Mann. But may it be a reminder that just because consent is given once, or just because you are in a relationship with someone, does not mean they don’t have the right to retract consent at any given point. This mentality was upheld in the courts. Mr. Vance, District Attorney of Manhattan, has something to say about this and the brave women who testified against Weinstein in court. He claims, “These are eight women who pulled our justice system into the 21st century by declaring that rape is rape and sexual assault is sexual assault. No matter what.”
When news launched of the conviction, Trump commented in a press release that he was never a friend or fan of Weinstein. He took the opportunity for political gain by using a majority of his time demonizing the Democratic party. He focused on Weinstein’s connection and donations to the party over the years, and he did so as a means to preserve his own image, considering it is an election year. He seems to have forgotten about his own allegations of sexual assault and rape that have cast a shadow on his presidency. When asked specifics regarding the case, Trump stated he believed this to be a “victory” for women, as if this is a game of Monopoly or Chess, and followed up by saying he couldn’t really keep up with the case due to constant traveling and meetings. Yet, this wasn’t an overnight issue. News first launched about Weinstein three years ago.
On top of the numerous allegations that span the months of October, 2017- February 2018 is a timeline of how the world reacted to Weinstein and his allegations leading up to his conviction. BBC News released a comprehensive list of everything that led up to the conviction, which we have edited focusing on the most noteworthy.
October 5, 2017
– The New York Times publishes article on initial allegations against Weinstein.
– He apologizes for the pain he has caused, but denies the allegations as being non- consensual.
– He takes a leave of absence from The Weinstein Company, and claims he is attending therapy.
October 14, 2017
-Organization behind the Oscars votes to expel Weinstein, claiming “What’s an issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society.”
October 16, 2017
– In an interview with Weinstein’s chauffeur, Mickael Chemloui, he revealed that he has had to drive around “tearful aspiring actresses” for the producer, often having to comfort them after their time with Weinstein.
October 19, 2017
– British Film Institute (BFI) withdraws Weinstein’s 2002 award.
November 3, 2017
– NYPD announces they finally have an “actual case” against Weinstein due to a credible narrative received by an anonymous woman.
November 6, 2017
– The New Yorker reveals Weinstein used Black Cube, an Israeli spy group, as private investigators to cover up sexual abuse claims. One of the names listed being Annabella Sciorra.
December 16, 2017
– Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings, stated that he received false information from Weinstein regarding Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd as a means to blacklist them.
February 11, 2018
– NY State prosecutors file a lawsuit against Weinstein Company for failure to protect employees.
May 25, 2018
– Weinstein turns himself in to the NYPD.
July 9, 2018
– One of Weinstein’s lawyers, Benjamin Brafman, stated, “Mr. Weinstein is not a predator; he is not a rapist and I believe that when this case is over we will ultimately see him be exonerated.”
Sep 17, 2018
– Head lawyer, Donna Rotunno reports to CBS that, “I’m not here to say he was not guilty of committing sins…But there’s a difference between sins and crimes, and I don’t think he’s a rapist.”
Dec 15, 2019
– In an interview with The New York Post, Weinstein attempts to defend himself by stating
his career has personally overseen “more movies directed by women, and about women than any film-maker.” He claims, “I pioneered it! It all got eviscerated because of what happened. My work has been forgotten.”
January 6, 2020
– The trial begins in New York.
February 13, 2020
– Rotunno asks the jury to be ‘unpopular’ in their ruling.
The idea of popularity being something defined, and argued about in the legal system is shocking. This message directly points to Rotunno’s viewpoint behind #MeToo and other feminist survival movements. By calling upon popularity as a factor of these movements, she only discredits and diminishes what the whole premise of going after assaulters is about.
“You can’t have it both ways and say, ‘I should be able to do whatever I want without consequences.” – Donna Rotunno, lead attorney for Weinstein, in response to women who came forward.
Rotunno, a criminal lawyer from Chicago, has built a career on defending men accused of sexual assault and misconduct. She is Weinstein’s head attorney on the case, and time and time again she has spoken out about her viewpoints on the case and ruling. Her comments can be described, at the very least, as unsettling.
In an interview with The New York Times, Rotunno claimed that the #MeToo movement had definitely helped the feminist cause, but it came at too high of a cost. She stated that it is dangerous and ruins people’s lives and careers without being “proven” guilty. Yet, isn’t that the root cause of the issue? This idea that there has to always be extremely hard core evidence before we believe a survivor? Which do we protect more in The United States, a life or a career?
Rotunno plans to appeal the conviction. She still is proudly stating her client is innocent, and in response to him being taken into custody she claims he “took it like a man.” A rather interesting choice of words. Specifically in this case, maybe we should stop using unhealthy rhetoric that only emphasizes gender steroetypes? Maybe we shouldn’t use comments to insinuate that “taking it like a man,” means strong, without emotion, and bravely, because if that’s the case maybe he “took it like a woman.” It takes significant amounts of more courage and bravery to stand up and testify against your assaulter than it requires to be one.
Rotunno’s plan is to appeal, despite the fact that it is unlikely she will be successful with the amount of evidence and testimonies against him, with more women stepping forward now that he has been convicted. This case additionally not only has a national audience, but an international one as well, and that is largely due to social media’s role.
Rose McGowan attempted to tell people for years about Harvey Weinstein assaulting her, and yet she was told several times that there was no proof. She claimed she was the proof, so in October of 2017, she took her testimony to Twitter. Twitter temporarily suspended her, and this outraged people all over the world, claiming they were trying to silence her. After this, Twitter, and other social media outlets became a space in which survivors could share their stories. Not to mention that the #MeToo movement is solely centered around social media and its opportunity to provide solidarity amongst survivors worldwide.
Though Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty, our fight is not over. There are still plenty of people in the world, especially people in positions of power, that have yet to be held responsible for their actions. If anything, Weinstein is the beginning of a fight. He is an example to others of what can happen when a woman stops being silenced. This is the age of women empowerment, of women’s voices, of women’s rights. However, there are still many out there that continue to play a role in victim blaming, in misogyny, in a man’s entitlement in the world. One of them unfortunately being Weinstein’s attorney, Donna Rotunno. She told The Daily, which is The New York Time’s podcast, that she had never been sexually assaulted because she would have never put herself in that position to begin with. If that is how it worked, the world would be a much easier place.
Weinstein now faces sentencing on March 11th, and he will stand trial in Los Angeles for more allegations made there.
Update: Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for his New York trial.