Anthony Rapp Hopes Weinstein Verdict Will Encourage More Victims to Speak Out (EXCLUSIVE)

Anthony Rapp is not surprised that Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of sexual assault and third-degree rape in New York. The actor — who became one of the first prominent men in the #MeToo movement when he alleged that Kevin Spacey had made a sexual advance toward him when Rapp was 14 — says he hopes the verdict will lead to more criminal prosecution of sexual misconduct, sexual assault and rape. But he also warns that convictions like Weinstein’s remain the exception rather than the rule.

“I just know in general the law isn’t very friendly to these kinds of cases,” Rapp tells Variety exclusively. “So the fact that he was convicted at all speaks volumes to me.”

Rapp heard of the verdict while on the set of his CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery” in Toronto.

“I’m trying to describe the feeling that at least some justice has been done,” he says of his initial reaction to the news. “It’s like a combination of relief and a kind of gratification, if that makes any sense. For a man as powerful and monied, with this machinery behind him and so much publicity — it is remarkable that he was convicted.”

Rapp says that while “it’s hard to tell” if Weinstein’s conviction will increase the number of criminal prosecutions of sexual misconduct crimes, he does hope the conviction will help other victims feel emboldened to come forward.

“Maybe it’ll encourage more people to consider going through the ordeal of being a witness,” he says. “Maybe it will give people a little more sense of their own power in these situations; they won’t feel so overwhelmed that it’s a hopeless cause. If I were somebody who was on the fence, trying to figure out whether to go forward with something — yes, they see the hardship, but they also see that maybe it can make a difference.”

Part of Rapp’s thinking is informed by the fact that prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped a sexual assault charge against Spacey last year after the plaintiff declined to testify. A civil case involving the same allegation was also dropped, and a second civil case involving a sexual assault allegation was dropped after the claimant died. (Spacey has not denied Rapp’s claim, but he has denied all other allegations of sexual misconduct.)

London Metropolitan Police, however, are still investigating six separate allegations of sexual assault against Spacey. “Because of the nature of the law” in the U.K., Rapp says, “it seems like the most likely criminal case would be there. I wouldn’t be surprised, but at the same time I’m not counting on it.”

Ultimately, Rapp doesn’t think only looking for a criminal conviction is helpful for the #MeToo movement. He points to the upheaval in how everything from sexual misconduct to gender parity in the workplace is now considered, driven by people willing to speak out, tenacious investigative journalism and a culture primed to scrutinize corrosive behavior by celebrated and powerful men. “Beyond any criminal case, this whole thing has changed the world already, as far as I’m concerned,” Rapp says. “And it continues to.”

As journalist Yashar Ali pointed out in a tweet after Weinstein’s conviction, Rapp’s decision to speak publicly about Spacey effectively ended Spacey’s career in its tracks.

“Whether or not the Metropolitan Police in London successfully prosecute the criminal case against Kevin Spacey,” Rapp says, “I don’t think the criminal cases are the only outcome to look for. It’s not the only remedy.”

Rapp says he sporadically followed the Weinstein trial, and thought the specific questions from the jury during their deliberations indicated they were taking a careful approach with a desire to convict Weinstein. But the most striking moment for him was the controversial interview Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno gave to the New York Times podcast “The Daily,” in which Rotunno said she’d never been the victim of a sexual assault because she’d never put herself “in that position.”

“That was just mind boggling,” Rapp said. “It was incredible to hear her way of thinking. I don’t think she was just spinning. I think she really believes in at least most of what she’s saying. Maybe a little bit of it is spin? But I don’t think so. It sounds like she’s a true believer to me. And that’s just incredible.”

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