Ex- Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape after his Manhattan trial on Monday. Weinstein who was accused by a number of women (over 80 women) of sexual abuse was convicted on the account of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree. The now-disgraced producer faces a possible sentence of five to twenty-nine years.
For those of you who are unaware, there were always whispers and rumours of Weinstein’s infamous casting couch behaviour with young women in the entertainment industry. While many in the industry were vaguely aware of his ‘reputation’ he was way too powerful to be tackled according to many in Hollywood. It was not until 2017 that the full picture of his predatory behaviour was unmasked to the world when The New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey reported a story that accounted for three decades of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. To add to this, it also revealed the eight settlements he had paid to women who he had abused who also happened to be working for him. A few days later, NBC news correspondent Ronan Farrow also published a report in The New Yorker to add to the number of stories of rape and sexual abuse by Weinstein. In his book Catch and Kill, Ronan also named celebrities who were aware of Weinstein’s predatory behaviour. It included names such as Ben Affleck, Colin Firth, Quentin Tarantino, Lena Dunham, and many others. This high profile expose is what set the ball in motion for the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements all over the internet.
Coming back to the case, Weinstein changed two male lawyers before he settled for a female criminal defence lawyer Donna Rotunno. According to The New York Times, her defence was led by the argument that the #MeToo movement had run out of control. She further tried to argue that all of Harvey’s sexual encounters were consensual while his accusers were trying to gain celebrity status. In her closing argument, she said that women weren’t taking responsibility for their own safety and men were the true victims of the #MeToo movement which was robbing them of their fundamental rights.
In another report by The Daily, Rotunno admitted that she had never been a victim of sexual assault since she had never ‘put herself in that position.’
But the good news, for now, is that the jury rejected her arguments and Weinstein was found guilty. He was immediately asked to be sent to jail where he was to await his sentencing. Reports suggest that the momentum and the heat of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements also added to the jury coming to this conclusion.
I can’t have been the only one who was left feeling a little hopeful after reading about Weinstein’s conviction. Not because I’m directly related to this specific case, but most women have unfortunately been or known someone who is a victim of sexual abuse. Moreover, being the first and biggest #MeToo case, Harvey Weinstein’s expose gave many women around the world the courage to speak up against their predators. I hope this verdict also has a similar ripple effect around the globe.
We must remember, Harvey Weinstein is just one predator among many who may still be hiding. The resounding success of his conviction was the result of speaking up in unison. Let’s continue to speak up against what’s not right.