The Undeniable Power of Telling Your Story, Telling Truth to Power The Power to Change History and Topple Unfair Power Dynamics"
SilenceBreaker/Actor, Lysette Anthony
Content warning: This article contains candid descriptions of sexual assault
Thirty or so years ago, Harvey Weinstein forced me back into my own basement hall. With his considerable weight he shoved, he stripped, he thrust, he came, like a rancid stray dog, down my leg. If these words are borderline unacceptable for you, take a moment to wonder at the shock, the confusion, disgust, and fear I felt, and therefore still feel.
With his considerable weight he shoved, he stripped, he thrust, he came, like a rancid stray dog, down my leg. If these words are borderline unacceptable for you, take a moment to wonder at the shock, the confusion, disgust, and fear I felt, and therefore still feel.
Ponder the humiliation, the sting and sheer emptiness as all sense of self respect is quite literally sucked out of you. Imagine being pinned to a bed, a huge man, with fat and pus crusted skin, leather tough, revolting, sits astride your prostrate body, tugging your clothes, pushing your legs apart, and like a pig at a trough, guzzling, all the while telling you how much you’ll like what he has in mind. Then imagine three decades on, hearing Weinstein’s lead defence lawyer, Donna Rotunno tell a news crew: ‘There’s a risk when you make those choices… If you don’t want to be a victim, don’t go to the hotel room’. In another interview, Rotunno added that she’d never put herself in a position to be sexually assaulted. Such remarks were designed not only to enrage those who had been raped by Weinstein, but also flush us out. To find out what we had on him. During his six-day trial last month for charges of rape and a criminal sex act involving alleged assaults against two women, it became apparent that Weinstein was micromanaging his defence.
As well as Rotunno – who was far more Cruella de Vil than The Good Wife – he surrounded himself with a bizarrely attired team of other expensive lawyers. They resembled background artists in a third rate Baz Luhrmann movie in their gangster chic designer suits with matching hats, no less. But of course their tactics, clearly honed and rehearsed, massively misfired. If unpicked through an actor’s lens, the trial scene was set badly. Harvey’s shabby attempt at King Lear – shuffling into court slowly, hunched and broken, his pockmarked skin a varying shade of yellow each day – was described as over the top.
I believe that the jury recognised they were being played. They didn’t buy his sad little walker or pathetic shuffle. The jurors were instructed to seek out the truth. Against all expectations they went for the raw, the unpolished, the messy. They believed the women before them, who cried uncontrollably whilst taking ownership of their complicated relationships with Harvey. Who, with passion, sacrificed their dignity to say: Me too – this man hurt me too. Finally, on 24 February 2020 – as stock markets tumbled, and a pandemic rehearsed – Weinstein eclipsed all global headlines with the astonishing news that he had been found guilty. He is now stamped, forever branded – a serial rapist.
It was momentous, for this man, whom Meryl Streep once called ‘God’, was believed to be untouchable. He was a king maker. His favour quite literally changed lives. So when a New York jury believed his brave accusers and not the theatrics of his bullying defence, Weinstein was finally revealed as a monster of epic, titanic proportions.
Recently, editor Tina Brown told the BBC Today program that he was ‘explosive, profane, crazy, paranoid’. She continued: ‘Dealing with him over two years was exhausting. He was so belligerent… If anyone critiqued him in the smallest of ways he would go absolutely volcanic. He would find them out and punish them’. She described his desire for press coverage as ‘obsessive’ and added, ‘I felt that I had to stay cordial with Harvey because he was too powerful… you just wanted to get out of his way. He felt dangerous, he felt like someone you wanted to keep on good terms with, because he was scary and he was powerful. ‘And so I do understand how the woman stayed involved with him. He was a very scary guy, you know, big, menacing person. He was a bad person to get on the wrong side of’.
On the day he was found guilty, Weinstein began his morning with breakfast at the swanky Four Seasons hotel, but by teatime he was shackled in a Manhattan infirmary en route to the notoriously tough Rikers Island penitentiary. There he will await sentencing on 11 March. He will get between five and 29 years. The number actually doesn’t matter, it’ll simply tide him over while the Los Angeles district attorney prepares their court case having already charged him. If I tell my story, and actress Annabella Sciorra reiterates hers the LA district attorney will be able to show the similarities
Predatory assault – that’s the big charge, the one LA will be going for, the one Weinstein was found not guilty of in New York. That’s the charge that wins a life sentence. It requires proof that Weinstein attacked at least two women, so if I tell my story and actress Annabella Sciorra reiterates hers (following her testimony in New York), the LA district attorney will be able to show the similarities. In fact they should be spoilt for choice – new survivors are starting to talk.
In addition, there’s always the possibility of a plea bargain. Personally I don’t think Weinstein will give up fighting. After all, with years of incarceration on his hands, a trip across states will be something to do, though his days of private jets are done. Of course his defence team continues to crow, ‘The fight is not over’. Rotunno insists her client is innocent because, as she told Emily Maitliss on Newsnight, she ‘looks at the facts. I look at the evidence’. But so did a jury, and they found her client guilty. Most jaw dropping is Rotunno’s assertion that the men and women of the jury were put in a ‘difficult’ situation as Weinstein has already been ‘convicted in the court of public opinion’.
Rotunno’s ability to mindfully throw caustic mockery with such glee has been the undoing of her This will be the central argument she’ll take to the higher courts seeking a dismissal. But they’ve blown it, shot their wad. Before the trial, and despite warnings from Judge James Burke, Rotunno blatantly, repeatedly, gave shockingly judgmental interviews in a variety of mediums. She sought to prejudice public opinion against all of us who have survived Weinstein’s reign of terror. I feel nothing but rage knowing that disingenuous persons such as Rotunno feel justified using mockery as a defence for that vile, excuse of a man. For that monster.
Imagine the rage I feel, blood fresh, knowing the damage to me, to us, is fair play to her because to him, to her, we were expendable. But he picked on the wrong girls. And Rotunno’s ability to mindfully throw caustic mockery with such glee has been the undoing of her. She lost the trial of the century. She failed. Spectacularly. Her hubris has been slaughtered by a global banding together, of women who recognised his mark of shame, who said #MeToo and who backed each other up, whatever the risks. Whatever the fear. Because there is good is this half crazed world, where loyalty and kindness matter.
It is said that Karma is a b*tch. I believe that Weinstein has produced his final production. His most successful, the one that has shifted laws and changed opinions. A hole in one indeed, for he has dug his own grave whilst burying the outdated acceptance that powerful men can use and abuse women with impunity.
On the afternoon of 24 February, I sat in the Hollyoaks PR’s office in Liverpool where I had been patched into a transatlantic press conference. With the call on speaker, we listened to an American publicist begin to list all of us Silence Breakers.
You know the names: Rosanna Arquette. Rose McGowen. Mira Sovino. On and on we were named. It was an historic moment, reflected in our sombre voices.
‘Ding dong, the Wizard is dead’, I wanted to shout. ‘Guilty. My rapist is guilty’.
What I actually said was,
‘This is the day that truth has won, for this is the day we slayed’. D