National News

An ‘Untouchable’ in Handcuffs Is ‘Start to Justice’ for Accusers

Posted May 25, 2018 9:14 p.m. EDT

It was, the women said, a foreign feeling, a twinned sense of disbelief and hope. Often, it spilled out physically, in shaking and tears: Hope d’Amore suddenly started sobbing in the middle of a Neiman Marcus in Texas; Dawn Dunning at her kitchen table in Los Angeles. On Friday, the news of Harvey Weinstein’s arrest wound its way through the lives of the many women who stepped forward to accuse him, over and over, of harassment, assault and abuse.

Most did not believe the day would ever come when they would see him marched into a courthouse, where he was charged with two counts of rape and a criminal sex act.

It was a stark — and to some, a long-delayed — reversal of fortune for Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul whose downfall helped usher in the global #MeToo movement.

As a symbol, Weinstein’s arrest looms large: The image of him, once mighty, now shuffled along, his hands pinned behind his back in three sets of cuffs, is indelible. It is a counterpoint to the sight of Anita Hill in her teal dress, testifying before Congress 27 years ago and introducing the country to the concept, and the hardships, of sexual harassment.

But as a practical matter, what unfolded Friday — as the women who helped make it happen quickly realized — was more complicated.

“My first feeling was elation because it’s a start to justice, and I say a start because that’s all it is right now,” said Cynthia Burr, who accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex in the late 1970s.

Outside the courthouse after Weinstein’s arraignment, his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said he would plead not guilty. Brafman reiterated that Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex. And he branded the two women whose experiences underpin the criminal case against him as liars.

Around the country, their fellow accusers — ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s, in big cities and rural communities, performers and professors — hoped his words would now ring hollow, in the face of all they have already revealed. The arrest of Weinstein, the undoing of someone so powerful, wealthy and well-connected, should send a message, they said: Stop behaving badly, or beware the consequences.

Weinstein has only intermittently spoken out in his own defense over these past months, another setback for a man previously known for his megaphone of a mouth. For his accusers, many of whom spent years, even decades, tormented into a fearful silence, this, too, was potent.

“What I saw today when I looked at him on the news, he’s now experiencing all the things he’s put everybody else through,” Burr said. “Humiliation, worthlessness, fear, weakness, aloneness, loss, suffering and embarrassment. And it’s only the beginning for him.”

Weinstein once reigned as an awards season deity, but Hollywood has long since processed his absence, and the arrest was met quietly there at the start of the Memorial Day weekend.

On social media, some of Weinstein’s high-profile accusers reveled in his transformation from mogul to perp. “We got you, Harvey Weinstein, we got you,” Rose McGowan, who was among the first to come forward with allegations against him, wrote on Twitter.

Speaking on “Good Morning America,” McGowan said that seeing Weinstein in handcuffs — a “visceral” desire she had — might help overcome the anxiety she otherwise felt when she saw images of him, a feeling others echoed.

“It’s definitely been hard reliving it because I had buried it a long time ago,” said Dunning, who said she sat at her kitchen table, watching the video clip of Weinstein in cuffs over and over. When Dunning was a young actress and design student, she said, Weinstein invited her to a hotel to discuss career prospects, and then propositioned her; she fled. She soon left acting, and is now a costume designer.

When d’Amore, who said Weinstein raped her in a New York hotel room in the 1970s, burst into tears in a department store Friday, she was surprised at her own reaction, she said. “This has had such a huge impact on my life, more than I realized for so many years,” she said. “I’m not even close to sorting it all out.”

Judith Godrèche, a French actress who lives in Los Angeles, said she worried about Weinstein’s sway for years after she rebuffed his advances at the Cannes film festival in 1996. “There are some things you can’t repair: women’s souls and bodies and memories and traumas that are going to be there forever, careers that have been damaged,” she said. “You can’t get that back.”

Even for those who spoke out about other men, the spectacle of Weinstein’s arrest proved triggering.

“I started shaking,” said Drew Dixon, who was one of three women who accused music mogul Russell Simmons of rape in a December article in The New York Times. “I was stunned that it had escalated to something with real legal consequences for him.”

Those consequences, of course, may not result in a conviction. But among the legions of men who have been professionally and socially toppled by the #MeToo movement since the first articles about Weinstein were published in October, very few have faced criminal charges. (Simmons has also been the subject of investigations by New York police; he, too, has denied nonconsensual sex.) Laura Madden, one of the first women to come forward against Weinstein, said that for social change to happen, “it’s important to recognize his criminal behavior. Sometimes that gets lost in cultural contexts.”

Still, Madden, who alleged that Weinstein continually asked her for massages while she was his employee, did not view his fall as “a celebration,” she wrote in a text message Friday, “because he’s a father.” (Weinstein has four daughters.) She was among several women who took a broader view of his circumstances. “As a Christian, I have felt compelled to pray for him,” said Burr, “and also that everybody, myself included, will find some resolution and peace.”

Godrèche said she was most affected as she was driving her 13-year-old daughter to school Friday morning. As she watched her child, who knew what her mother went through, “my heart was exploding with a feeling of joy and hope,” Godrèche said. “I was feeling that it was such an important day for all of us. I basically did this for her.”

Woman after woman said they drew courage even learning about the stories of others who spoke up.

“It’s sisterhood with a capital S,” said Tomi-Ann Roberts, a professor of psychology at Colorado College, who said she encountered Weinstein’s misconduct as an undergraduate pursuing acting.

Just as Weinstein’s fall touched off a global movement, his legal fate absorbed even women who were not part of his orbit.

“If someone of his stature can be taken down by our legal system, and people can find justice from this ‘untouchable,'” said Beckie Warren, a Brooklyn yoga teacher and art curator, “then someone in a much lower position who thinks they can wield power over women might think twice.”