Thoughts on the Weinstein Verdict
By Clare Mounteer, Executive Director
Feb. 28, 2020
Last Monday a jury in Manhattan handed down a verdict finding powerful media mogul Harvey Weinstein guilty on two of five charges of rape and sexual assault. The verdict has been hailed as game changing for survivors who have historically been reluctant to come forward; and for prosecutors who have been historically reluctant to take cases to trial without sufficient evidence to ensure a successful outcome - a guilty verdict.
What has really changed and what does it mean for survivors and prosecutors who are weighing their options in these cases? Since the onset of the #MeToo Movement in 2017, we have seen a parade of rich, famous and powerful men like Weinstein lose their jobs over allegations of sexual harassment and assault but only a handful of them are serving prison time: Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar and now Harvey Weinstein. Each of these men perpetrated their crimes over multiple years with multiple victims before criminal charges were filed against them.
These guilty verdicts indicate some progress. For too many years men like these committed their crimes with little or no consequence. Perhaps others like them will think twice about their behavior. The verdicts may be encouraging for survivors who wondered if their experience would have weight against a well-known perpetrator with the resources to hire the best legal defense team.
It remains to be seen how much of a difference the Weinstein verdict will make for the majority of sexual assault survivors whose cases do not capture media attention. They must still weigh up whether it is worth risking their job to report to their HR department. Many will question whether they will be believed by law enforcement. Survivors need information, options and support from the whole community. They deserve nothing less.