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Harvey Weinstein was convicted of criminal sexual assault and third-degree rape in a New York courtroom on Monday. He was acquitted of the most serious charges, predatory sexual assault and first-degree rape.
Weinstein was one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers until 2017, when reports in the New Yorker and New York Times detailed accounts from dozens of women who said he had harassed or assaulted them — allegations he denies. In the months that followed, the list of Weinstein’s accusers grew to include as many as 100 women.
Weinstein’s case was the inciting event that turned the #MeToo movement — which was started more than a decade earlier by activist Tarana Burke — into a national phenomenon that toppled a long list of prominent and powerful men who had been accused of various forms of misconduct.
Why there’s debate
For many, Weinstein’s conviction is a signal of the seismic shifts that have happened because of the #MeToo movement. For a powerful man like Weinstein to face not just personal and professional consequences but also legal ones, shows how far views on sexual assault have been reshaped in just a few years. Some legal analysts say the case also represents an important evolution in the minds of prosecutors and juries about sexual assault cases, which are often difficult to convict because of limited physical evidence and attacks on the accuser’s credibility.
Others caution about reading too much into the conviction of a single person, especially given the severity of allegations against Weinstein. The forces that allowed Weinstein to get away with his behavior for so long, though perhaps weakened by #MeToo, are still largely intact, they argue. Weinstein’s case was unique in many ways — a high-profile suspect, accusations from famous actresses, an intense media frenzy. It may be naive to expect the impact of this trial to carry over to a typical sexual assault case in which none of these elements are present.
Weinstein was taken into custody and will be sentenced on March 11. He faces up to 25 years in prison. After being sentenced in New York, he will be tried on four counts of sexual assault in a separate case brought against him in Los Angeles.
The case shows perception of sexual assault has changed
“What the jury understood, by convicting Weinstein, was that all of us need to update our image of the rapist. Weinstein was a monster, but he wasn’t the stranger in the bushes monster. He was the monster in the office, the hotel or the dorm, the one who is capable of committing rape in the context of ongoing relationships. For the jury to have understood this, and convicted Weinstein, is an important turning point.” — Jeffrey Abramson, Los Angeles Times
It’s about more than #MeToo
“It’s a mistake to credit this sea change solely to #MeToo. A cultural shift this profound takes more than two or three years. It happened because of the hundreds of rape survivors who pushed back, constantly and loudly, against rape culture norms.” — Sady Doyle, NBC News
The conviction could inspire more women to come forward
“Although it was a mixed verdict, it could encourage more victims of sexual assault to pursue justice in the courtroom. Rape is notoriously underreported, partly because victims fear they won’t be believed and will be retraumatized.” — Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg
It’s a sign of the power women are gaining in many realms
“Women are finally realizing that they have the political power to change what's happening in this country on a whole host of issues.” — Cecile Richards, MSNBC
The systems that sheltered Weinstein still stand
“I think what Me Too has done is expose these really insidious power structures, and though I’m glad to see the man who sat atop one of those structures held accountable, I do feel like the whole structure is basically intact still.” — Callie Beusman, The Cut
Men may be more hesitant to commit assault
“The most important change will be found in what we cannot measure — all the crimes that don’t happen because would-be perpetrators fear the consequences, now that there are consequences.” — Rebecca Solnit, New York Times
The justice system alone can’t end violence against women
“Weinstein repeatedly harmed women with non-consensual or exploitative sex, and the verdict against him recognizes this harm. But we should be wary of thinking that we can prosecute and jail our way out of sexual violence.” — Aya Gruber and Cynthia Godsoe, New York Daily News
The case shows how extraordinary it is for accusations to lead to a conviction
“Eighty different women came forward to accuse him of sexual violence or harassment. ...The fact that only two of them have obtained any semblance of justice in the criminal system is a reminder of how staggeringly difficult it is for women and other survivors of sexual abuse in this country to hold perpetrators accountable.” — Kara Alaimo, CNN
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