As one of over 100 women who came forward about abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, his trial – which has now concluded with a guilty verdict on two counts, one of sexual assault and one of rape in the third degree – has been deeply triggering for me.
I was outside of the courthouse on the first day of the trial on a bitterly cold morning. For days before this moment, I was a complete wreck. But I knew that being there was important for other women like me. So, I gathered all my courage and stood there, waiting for my own personal monster to emerge.
As Harvey’s SUV arrived, I started trembling uncontrollably. It had been 12 years since I had been anywhere near him, and the last and only time I saw him he pressed his 6ft tall, 300-pound, nearly naked body against mine while holding me so tight I couldn’t have any hope of escaping, whispering in my ear that he loved me, and asking if I’d flirt with his friends and use sex to get ahead in my career.
But today he’d be hobbling in with the support of his walker, a shrunken shell of the man who had caused so much pain for so many years. As he emerged from the truck, my fellow survivors and I stood taller, stronger; and while tears ran down our cheeks and our bodies shook, we were there in our full power, daring him to look at us.
But he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. The man is a coward and a liar. That’s why when the women he abused are on the stand, he mostly keeps his head down. He knows what he did. And our faces are the indelible reminder of his villainy. He kept us isolated and scared for years, decades, but he didn’t anticipate what would happen when we found each other, when we raised our voices, and when we demanded the world reckon with the horrors he perpetrated upon us.
Later that day, I joined my fellow survivors for a press conference. It was overwhelming but empowering, and for about 24 hours I felt stronger and happier than I had in the two years since coming forward. But within a few days, my body shut down. I had one of the most severe and debilitating panic attacks I’ve ever had. The toll of sexual violence is a large and complex one, with far-ranging physical, psychological, and economic consequences for survivors. Anyone who thinks people like me, or the warriors who have taken the stand, have come forward for fame or money needs to understand how much we have sacrificed just to tell the truth. This isn’t done for personal gain; it’s to make the world safer.
But as the trial raged on, it became even more of a nightmare. Donna Rotunno and her colleagues seemingly delighted in bullying witnesses to the point of sobbing. It got so bad at one point that Judge James Burke had to dismiss witnesses and chastise the defense’s tactics.
Watching coverage of the trial, I was struck by how many “legal experts” also touted rape myths as though they were legal precedents. I personally appeared on Court TV multiple times to dispel this dangerous thinking and educate its audience about how the law is not built to treat survivors fairly. Putting my own trauma aside in order to correct rape myths and victim-blaming is an incredibly difficult, draining, and time-consuming task.
Regardless of the strength I may show in interviews, I am still terrified. Terrified that this judgment on Harvey won’t be enough; terrified that the film industry, the same industry that blacklisted me and countless other silence breakers, will welcome this horrible man back with open arms one day; terrified that my health will suffer further; terrified that Harvey will be set free to abuse more women in the future.
Don’t get me wrong – the simple fact that Harvey Weinstein stood on trial was momentous. His power and influence cannot be ignored. This is a global reckoning, and I am proud of the small part I have played in it.
Harvey has been found guilty of two counts in New York, and he will now go on to face further charges in Los Angeles. He may not ever be held accountable for everything he has done, but this is an extremely encouraging start.
Harvey Weinstein is not simply my own personal monster: he is a dangerous predator who is symbolic of the toxic culture of rape, power, and abuse that permeates every industry and community.
I am a survivor and I will never stop fighting. But I look forward to a world where the fight ends because everyone joins together to say: “Enough is enough; I believe survivors, I repudiate abusers, and I will never blame or punish victims of sexual violence again.”