The case that sparked the “Me Too” movement is finally coming to an end after media mogul Harvey Weinstein is charged on two counts.
Harvey Weinstein used to be known as one of the most prolific and powerful executives in Hollywood. Today, his name conjures up images of scandal, abuse and maltreatment of female coworkers and employees. His sentencing is set to take place on March 11.
The public’s attention was first called to decades of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein by The New York Times on Oct. 5, 2017. Throughout the month of October, Weinstein denied all allegations against him, issued an acknowledgement apologizing for the amount of pain he has caused and was ultimately removed by the board of his company.
Women spoke out about Weinstein sexual harassment. Claims included forced sensual massages, discussions while Weiinstein was naked, inappropriate propositions and forced sexual encounters. On Oct. 14, 2017, Rose McGowan publicly claimed that Harvey Weinstein raped her. This accusation opened the floodgates for dozens and dozens of women to speak up about their own assaults, which would lead to the hefty charges brought against the movie mogul.
Hollywood began expressing disappointment and disgust with Weinstein on social media, and many actors walked away from projects involving the moviemaker. Weinstein attempted to buy the silence of several of his accusers, to no avail. Organizations such as The Television Academy and The Producers Guild of America have banned Harvey Weinstein for life.
In February 2018, New York State prosecutors filed a lawsuit against the Weinstein Company for failing to protect employees from Weinstein’s abuse. Three months later, Weinstein turned himself in for sexual misconduct and was subsequently charged with rape and sexual abuse. Over the following months, many more women filed charges against Weinstein, who pleaded not guilty to all charges brought against him. The outpouring of survivors proceeds throughout 2019 and the entirety of the Weinstein scandal comes to a head with the beginning of trial on January 6, 2020.
On Feb. 24, 2020, following five days of deliberation, the jury presented their verdict: Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and third-degree rape. He was acquitted of his most serious charges — first-degree rape and two counts of sexual predatory assault — which could have sent him to prison for life.
Through Twitter, one of Weinstein’s victims, Alyssa Milano, started the hashtag “MeToo” and encouraged other individuals who had experienced sexual violence to utilize the tag in solidarity with other survivors. In light of the Me Too Movement and the culture of disbelieving assault survivors throughout the history of criminal justice cases, the Weinstein convictions set a new precedent for how these types of cases can be prosecuted. In previous similar situations, if a woman had continued a professional relationship with someone that they had claimed attacked them, their case would never have made it before a jury; it would have been dismissed out of hand.
The New York prosecuters anticipated such dismissals of victims’ testimonies and brought to the stand a forensic scientist who explained the aftermath of sexual assault as well as its many manifestations and implications. The psychiatrist testified that contact with an attacker is the norm following an assault. There is so much that has been learned and continues to be discovered about the dynamics of sexual assault, particularly within the work place, and these two convictions can be seen as the first steps towards a more understanding and aware United States justice system.
President and CEO of the Time’s Up Foundation, Tina Tchen, states that the jury’s decision “marks a new era of justice, not just for the Silence Breakers, who spoke out at great personal risk, but for all survivors of harassment, abuse, and assault at work.”
Weinstein now faces separate sexual assault charges in Los Angeles. Although the majority of the charges did not lead to a conviction–and most women were actually unable to press charges due to the statute of limitations on sexual assault case–most of the women who spoke out, as well as the prosecutors in the case, see the outcome of the entire trial as a major victory for sexual assault survivors. A group of women who accused Weinstein said, “While it is disappointing that today’s outcome does not deliver the true, full justice that so many women deserve, Harvey Weinstein will now forever be known as a convicted serial predator.”