Two Predictions in the Wake of Harvey Weinstein’s Conviction
First, even more incredibly powerful, once-considered-untouchable bad guys will go down. Second, lawyers who defend predators will not revise their tactics: they’ll still attack victims, even though that despicable strategy didn’t work for Weinstein.
Time and time again, we hear some variation of this from victims who call us: “You don’t understand. The man who abused me is VERY powerful/beloved/well-connected/wealthy/manipulated. No one will believe me. They’ll all rally around him.”
To the thousands of suffering survivors who feel this way, we now have yet another strong, simple rebuttal: “So was Harvey Weinstein.”
Time and time again, we also hear some variation of this: “You don’t understand. I gave mixed signals. I willingly went on a date with him. I let him take a few sexy pictures, but didn’t want what he did next. I ended up with an addiction/eating disorder/criminal record that will hurt my credibility.”
And our latest gentle rebuttal will now be: “So did one of Weinstein’s victims. (And Cosby’s. And others.)
In other words, this well-deserved jury verdict sends two messages that will resonate with millions.
To victims, it says “Sure he’s powerful and sure you’re not perfect. But even the most high-dollar defense lawyer and her wildly popular and powerful client can lose, even when his victims are ruthlessly portrayed as confused, compromised, self-serving or whatever.”
And to judges and juries, it says “Yes, victims of sexual assault are not saints, either before or after their victimization, but you must focus on the accused, not the accusers and realize that every person who’s assaulted responds in her/his own way and few of those responses undermine their credibility.”
How about Donna Rotunno’s mean-spirited comments about and questions to victims? Since they didn’t work for Weinstein, why won’t defense lawyers change their approach in the future?
Sadly, because it’s very hard to defend the indefensible. And it’s easy to cast doubt on accusers by calling them every name in the book and questioning their every move. (Even more sadly, this vicious strategy does, in fact, work in some cases.)
And because with social media and technological advances (texts, DNA, surveillance video and the like), it’s harder for perpetrators to ‘cover their tracks’ and deny their crimes. So what can their lawyers do? Go after their accusers.
But in recent years, there’s been vastly more attention paid to abuse and cover ups and how victims cope with this trauma. So police, prosecutors, judges and juries are more sophisticated than ever. More and more of them understand that it doesn’t matter than a victim may have initiated the first conversation or bought the first round of drinks or invited him to dance or wore a low-cut blouse or even sent a friendly text to him later. The once-hurtful impact of these factors is waning.
So, a challenge to the wounded. Take heart from Weinstein’s conviction. Take inspiration from his courageous victims. Take action.
If you saw, suspected or suffered sexual violation or any sort by anyone at any time, pick up the phone. Call us. Call a friend or loved one. Call the cops. Call a counselor. DO SOMETHING to expose and stop the next Harvey Weinstein, even (or especially) if he’s a rich or prominent or high profile con man.