Harvey Weinstein’s accusers still wonder if justice will finally be served
For many of the women who claim that Harvey Weinstein raped, assaulted, groped, sexually harassed, masturbated in front of, inappropriately touched, forcibly kissed, verbally abused, professionally punished, spied on or systemically silenced them, Friday was a long-awaited day.
On Friday morning, the disgraced Hollywood mogul turned himself in to New York authorities and was arraigned on charges of first-degree rape, third-degree rape and committing a first-degree criminal sexual act. The charges, filed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, are connected to separate alleged incidents involving two unnamed women in 2013 and 2004.
Weinstein, 66, has been accused of a wide range of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women, among them actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Asia Argento. The allegations, first reported last October, launched the #MeToo movement and sparked a reckoning about how women are treated in Hollywood and other industries.
As images of Weinstein being escorted out of New York Police Department’s 1st Precinct headquarters in handcuffs tore across social media, many of his alleged victims tweeted their feelings of satisfaction.
“We got you, Harvey Weinstein, we got you,” tweeted McGowan, one of Weinstein’s most vocal accusers, who has said that he raped her in 1997 at the Sundance Film Festival and then paid her a $100,000 settlement to keep the matter under wraps.
In interviews with The Times, several alleged Weinstein victims expressed a range of emotions over his surrender, describing their elation but also, in some cases, their mental fatigue and worries over whether justice would be served.
“Pulp Fiction” actress Rosanna Arquette — who has claimed that Weinstein once asked her for a massage in a hotel room and tried to force her to touch his erect penis — says she didn’t sleep a wink over the two nights leading up to his arrest, and remained in regular contact with some of his other alleged victims, offering her support.
“There’s tears. There’s relief. There’s exhaustion,” she said. “There’s retriggering from just seeing his monster face for some women. And I do feel proud to be part of this movement that sparked a reaction around the world. Just talking right now, I feel like I’m about to sob.”
Former actress and screenwriter Louisette Geiss said that she woke up at 6 a.m. to watch the court proceedings unfold live on television. “I was making so many sounds while watching — gasping, ‘Oh! Oh, my God!’ It’s truly unbelievable,” she said.
Geiss has alleged that Weinstein tried to force her to watch him masturbate while she was pitching a movie to him at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. “First and foremost, I feel exhausted. There’s a sadness that trails with the story,” she said. “There’s no fun in picking at this wound repeatedly. ... So it’s been really hard.”
Weinstein, who was fired by his namesake company last fall, has denied any criminal acts, claiming that he has never engaged in sexual behavior that was not consensual. His attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said Friday that the producer would enter a plea of not guilty at a later date, adding that Weinstein “did not invent the casting couch.” Weinstein was released on $1-million cash bail and agreed to have his movements monitored.
Weinstein is the first high-profile Hollywood figure to be charged with a crime in the #MeToo era. Last October, searing investigations of the film producer published by the New York Times and the New Yorker touched off a seige in show business as dozens of notable men were subsequently accused of misconduct, among them Brett Ratner, Russell Simmons, Charlie Rose and James Toback. (Each has denied wrongdoing, with Rose apologizing for “inappropriate behavior.”)
Some, like Rose, have lost their jobs over the accusations; some, like Toback, have been the subject of criminal inquiries that ended with no charges being filed; and some, like Simmons, remain targets of ongoing police investigations.
For others, the impact is harder to ascertain. Some men accused of misconduct — including Jeffrey Tambor, James Franco and Ryan Seacrest — have apologized and/or denied the claims and continued to work (though Tambor was fired from “Transparent,” the scene of his alleged misdeeds).
Organizations within the industry have responded by creating task forces to examine their own policies related to workplace conduct and issuing new rules for dealing with members’ sexual harassment and other misbehavior. The Producers Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released new guidelines for members’ conduct, and new initiatives have been created, including Time’s Up and 50/50by2020, the latter seeking gender equality in show business companies.
In December, six women including Geiss sued Weinstein and Weinstein Co. in federal court in New York, alleging a scheme that facilitated the businessman’s predatory behavior. They are seeking class-action certification. Other civil cases against Weinstein and his former production house include a November action filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by an anonymous actress who accused the producer of sexual battery and assault. He also is the focus of ongoing criminal investigations in Los Angeles and London.
But Weinstein’s arrest is the first concrete signal that he may be held accountable for his alleged crimes.
“This whole thing is a moral thing — it’s about justice. Because this guy got away with it for way too long,” said former fashion model Juliana De Paula, who alleged in a Los Angeles Times story published in October that Weinstein groped her and forced her to kiss other models that he had taken to his loft in New York a decade ago. She said that news of Weinstein being charged has left her elated. “It makes me feel there is justice in this world.”
Arquette is cautiously optimistic real change within Hollywood is possible.
“This isn’t a witch hunt,” Arquette said. “This is holding men accountable. I believe in healing and redemption. You’ve seen murderers who at the end of their lives finally understand what they’ve done. And a lot of women would be angry at me for saying that. But I think men have to look in the mirror now and ask: ‘What kind of man do I want to be?’”
And yet Arquette said that since an account of her early-1990s run-in with Weinstein appeared in the New Yorker’s October investigation of the mogul, she has not been offered new acting opportunities.
“Nobody has called. Not one person. I still don’t have an agent,” said Arquette, who believes Weinstein badmouthed her to filmmakers after she rebuffed him. “It’s pretty disturbing, and it definitely says a lot. It’s still affecting my life. When my manager recently went to some agents, nobody wanted me.”
Some alleged victims of Weinstein said that they could not fully exult in Friday’s news, in part because recent events have left them wary. Former fashion model Zoë Brock, who is a plaintiff in the class-action case, has alleged that during the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, Weinstein arranged, unbeknownst to her, for them to wind up alone in a hotel room, where he appeared nude and demanded a massage from her. While the news of Weinstein being criminally charged has given her some hope, she believes it “would be naïve to just celebrate.”
Brock, who recounted her claimed Weinstein encounter in a story in The Los Angeles Times last fall, said that recent allegations of assault by former New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman have left her distrustful of authorities involved in bringing legal actions against the mogul. Schneiderman, who had aggressively pursued a civil rights lawsuit against Weinstein and his former company and spoke often of his support for the #MeToo movement, recently resigned after a story in the New Yorker detailed the claims of four women who said he subjected them to “nonconsensual physical violence.” (The attorney general’s office is continuing to pursue the civil rights lawsuit; Schneiderman, meanwhile, has denied he assaulted the women or engaged in “nonconsensual sex.”)
“I don’t have any trust anymore,” said Brock tearfully. “What happened with Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman was the rotten cherry on top of a disgusting … Harvey sundae, and it didn’t just break a lot of people’s hearts, it broke our trust. This is extremely triggering and we don’t have faith in the system.”
Brock and other Weinstein accusers said that they expected the producer and his legal team to work hard to discredit the women who are involved in the New York criminal case. While authorities have not disclosed the women’s identities, two law enforcement sources confirmed one of them is Lucia Evans, a once-aspiring actress who told the New Yorker last year that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 during a visit to his Miramax office.
“Now the hell begins, a new hell,” said Brock. “So my love and support to the women, whoever they are, who were able to get this case [going]. God, it is brave.”
Despite her wariness, there is something that Brock believes could deliver the sort of catharsis she seeks.
“A guilty verdict,” she said.
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