Here was a man who had everything — a fabulously successful movie career, a beautiful and talented wife, money and contacts. He was the ultimate Hollywood mogul and his film company, Miramax, was just about the coolest thing in LA.
Here was a man who supposedly had everything, including a reputation for bullying, sexually abusing and raping women, and now as everyone knows, Harvey Weinstein will go to jail, protesting his innocence, when he is sentenced on March 11 on charges of rape and felony.
Weinstein (pictured, 3rd left) follows a long list of famous and influential sexual predators, including Bill Cosby (now behind bars) and the financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly killed himself in prison.
And while we know that there was no VIP sex abuse ring in Westminster, too many people, from the police to MPs, turned a blind eye to what was going on, particularly about the late Liberal politician Cyril Smith, a serial sex offender.
Equally, there is a long list of famous and powerful women who were strong enough to blow this dirty little secret right out of the water and the #MeToo pioneers spear-headed the campaign, changing the dynamics of gender and power. It’s taken too long to recognise the infestation and to start the fumigation, but it has begun, and it has to keep going.
Ronan Farrow, the New Yorker journalist, won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his work documenting Weinstein’s sexual harassment, which he shared with the New York Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Journalism still has a vital role in holding power to account — predatory behaviour can no longer be swept under the carpet and accepted as part of the Hollywood game.
But the challenge goes much wider than Hollywood. The US-based Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that 995 out of every 1,000 perpetrators of sexual assault, or about 99.5 per cent, will walk free because of low reporting and conviction rates.
Weinstein tried to silence his accusers, and the process took on a very ugly character when his defence team claimed that the women who had accused him used “regret renamed as rape”. The prosecution called the forensic psychiatrist Dr Barbara Ziv, who had testified at Cosby’s second trial. Sometimes, victims, she explained, can’t believe what has happened to them and to cope, they continue to have contact with their attacker, as was the case for some of the women in the Weinstein case. “They’re hoping that this is just an aberration. You hear that all the time. A vast majority of sexual assault victims don’t report promptly,” she told the court. “The time can range from days to months to years to report an assault — to never.”
“People believe they know things about sexual assault, those are called rape myths. Rape myths involve misconceptions about rape and sexual assault,” she said, and pointed out an overwhelming majority of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
In another world, this scenario would have had the ingredients for one of Miramax’s films. Instead, it is a victory for women, although you can’t draw conclusions from one case. Tarana Burke, who started the original #MeToo movement said, “It took years, and millions of voices raised, for one man to be held accountable by the justice system.”
“And, though today a man has been found guilty, we have to wonder whether anyone will care about the rest of us tomorrow.”