In the opening arguments at Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial this week in Los Angeles, the producer’s defense attorney pointed to his aging, overweight client and rhetorically asked, “Do you think those beautiful women had sex with him because he’s hot?”
The bottom line is that poor Harvey wasn’t going to get laid except in exchange for what he’s provided for sneaky “Hollywood wannabes” career advancement.
That wasn’t my experience as one of his victims. If I was being chased around a conference table on a business meeting or trying to escape from a hotel suite, the last thing on my mind was my career: I just wanted to make it to the exit. Some women weren’t so lucky and got trapped by a massive wall of putrid flesh. Others went into a well-documented sexual assault survival response and froze, praying it would be over soon. So where is the transaction? When Weinstein gave some women money in return for their silence, when he threw crumbs of favors to his victims who were desperately trying to reclaim something as consolation for what he had taken from them, those acts are no longer trading, trading in Sex, as hot pennies tossed contemptuously to burn the hands of the poor.
Many of us who came forward to report Weinstein’s abuse did not benefit then and do not benefit now. We came forward knowing he would never stop and that only our truth could bring him down as we recognized the extensive catalog of victims, the inordinate number of lives damaged by trauma.
Despite what the defense claims we’re “milking” those horrific encounters with Weinstein, I had no further interaction with Harvey after the attack. I ran away humiliated and ranting about my stupidity for believing that an acquaintance was telling the truth when he said he would like to introduce me to help me get work in Hollywood. But the number of people who helped me after that date, offering advice and tutorials and just asking to “pay it up front” as payback shows that I wasn’t naïve after all – I was just unlucky enough to encounter a predator.
It is common among young people to seek advice from people who are established in their chosen profession. Who didn’t start their career as a “wannabe”? Harvey and his brother Bob were wannabe film producers when they sneaked into the Saturday morning pictures as kids. Even Weinstein’s attorney (who used the term to mock Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who’s now an accomplished documentary maker) was probably a wannabe attorney when he was in law school. There is no shame in making a career. Guilt and shame belong to those with power who would abuse hopeful young people to satisfy their deviant sexual appetites. The only culprit here is Harvey Weinstein, and his attorney is trying to make you forget.
Louise Godbold is the Executive Director of Echo, a nonprofit organization that provides trauma and resilience training to survivors and service professionals. As one of the #MeToo silencers, Louise has given television and press interviews internationally on the subject of trauma and sexual assault. She has written for Slate, The Smithsonian Magazine, Pacific Standard, Huffington Post, and The Imprint.