Why Harvey Weinstein’s Conviction Affects Us All

Samantha Davila, Contributor

A jury at a Manhattan courthouse found Harvey Weinstein guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree on Feb. 24, 2020. To some, this might not seem to be a big deal.

However, this conviction demonstrates the beginning of a cultural change in how we discuss sexual assault and how sexual assault affects victims in a variety of ways. The jury also found Weinstein not guilty of two counts of predatory sexual assault.

This conveys mixed signals about how the jury felt about the harrowing and graphic testimony that his accusers gave during the trial. As a result, this may be a bittersweet moment for Annabella Sciorra, the well-known ‘The Sopranos’ actress who accused Weinstein of raping her in her Gramercy Park apartment sometime during the winter months of 1993/early 1994.

However, the fact that the jury believed that Weinstein was guilty which requires them to believe he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt shows that they believed the complicated but honest testimonies of Mimi Haley and Jessica Mann.

During their testimonies, both Haley and Mann stated that even after they were sexually
assaulted by Weinstein, they continued a consensual relationship with him. They said that they did this because of not only his power to affect their careers but also because they wanted to have control over their own lives and over what happened to them.

It is hard for sexual assault allegations to be prosecuted even when a victim reports the assault and has DNA evidence as a result of a rape kit being collected. Before the #MeToo movement, prosecuting a case like this would be unimaginable.

The fact that Harvey Weinstein was convicted despite the complicated and perceived mixed signals that the testimonies of Haley and Mann gave, shows that ideas about what sexual assault looks like are changing.

You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with me?” or “Why should I care?” You should care because Mimi Haley and Jessica Mann could have been anyone of us. They could have been YOU.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “More than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives.”

Think about what these statistics mean. They likely mean that you or someone you know and love so dear has dealt with sexual violence.

Victims are likely to know their assailant. In fact, the closer the relationship between the
offender and the victim, the less likely that the victim will contact the police. These are all factors that can lead a victim of sexual assault to not want to report it or lead them to continue a relationship with the perpetrator.

What happened to the survivors of Harvey Weinstein could happen to anyone. It could especially happen to students on college campuses because women ages 18 to 24 are more likely to be sexually assaulted in general; according to the Office of Women’s Health, one in five women on college campuses experience sexual assault.

In order for the current sexual violence epidemic to change in this country, rape culture must change. Rape myths that overwhelmingly blame victims and that are not supported by scientific research cause damage to already traumatized survivors of sexual violence and increase the stigma around it. All of us must work to change how sexual violence in this country is viewed.