Validation, relief, gratitude and pride — those were some of the emotions expressed by a group of women who came forward with allegations of sexual assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein in response to the disgraced producer’s conviction on Monday for rape and sexual assault.
The group of more than 20 women held a conference call Monday afternoon to share their reaction to the news earlier in the day that the once-powerful movie producer will likely face a minimum of five years in prison after being convicted on two of the five sexual assault charges he was facing.
“Today is a powerful day and a huge step forward in collective healing,” said Rose McGowan, who has accused Weinstein of raping her in 1997.
“The era of impunity for powerful men who rape people is over,” said Mira Sorvino, an Oscar-winning actor who saw her career derailed after allegedly rebuffing Weinstein’s advances. “He will rot in jail as he deserves and we will begin to have some closure.”
Multiple women on the call reflected on the seismic shifts within the entertainment industry since the exposés of Weinstein’s troubling history were published by The New York Times and New Yorker in October 2017. Actor Larissa Gomes said the decision by the Silence Breakers and others to come forward with painful stories of assault has paved the way for a safer and more equitable future for women in the workplace around the world.
“We changed the world by speaking out collectively. This is the culmination of our courage,” Gomes said. “We’re never going back to the way things were.”
Some of the women who spoke on the call described tearfully watching TV and digital news outlets to learn Weinstein’s fate with loved ones, or in the case of Gomes, as she drove her son to his preschool class. The scale of Weinstein’s alleged misconduct was reinforced by how accusers have come forward from all over the world.
On Monday’s call, Zoe Brock was in her native New Zealand. Paula Williams was in Seattle. Lysette Anthony was in the U.K. Rowena Chiu was in Palo Alto, Calif. Participants expressed satisfaction that Weinstein was taken in handcuffs from the Manhattan federal courtroom to New York City’s notorious Rikers Island detention center.
“He’s in Rikers Island. For once he won’t be sitting comfortably. For once he will know what it’s like to have power wrapped around his neck,” McGowan said.
Multiple women referenced the fact that Weinstein was convicted despite what they described as “victim-shaming” defense tactics on cross-examination of the women who testified against him. Weinstein was convicted by a jury of seven men and five women of third-degree rape and a criminal sexual act. He was found not guilty on the charge of predatory sexual assault, which carries a 25 years to life in prison sentence, and two other counts.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect victim,” said Lauren Sivan, an L.A.-based journalist. “Rape is rape, sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter what the victims did before, what they wore or said. I’m so grateful (the jury) saw through that.”
Caitlin Dulany said she felt the two convictions would encourage women to seek legal recourse for sexual crimes. A number of participants said they were “bracing” for Weinstein to be exonerated.
“I have a renewed sense of faith that women will be believed when they come forward. This is absolutely a day of reckoning for Harvey Weinstein, as I hoped it would be,” Dulany said.
Actor Rosanna Arquette noted that a number of Weinstein victims have been working to change the legal landscape for sexual misconduct victims, from challenging statute of limitations rules to the non-disclosure agreements that kept so many accusers from speaking out.
“Today let’s focus on the progress that has been made — the first guilty verdict in the #MeToo era,” Arquette said. “It’s vindication for all the women he has harmed.”
Weinstein is sure to appeal his convictions. The producer is also facing four counts of rape and other sexual assault charges in Los Angeles that were filed in January. The conviction in New York will give hope and courage to women involved in the Los Angeles charges and to those far beyond Hollywood.
“All the work we’ve done will serve as a beacon for all the future silence breakers,” said Williams.
The call participants also expressed immense respect and gratitude to the women who testified against Weinstein in New York: Miriam Haley, Jessica Mann and Annabella Sciorra.
“It’s nothing short of heroic, what they’ve done for all survivors,” Gomes said.