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The Weinstein Trial: Misconceptions of Sexual Assault & Harassment

Updated: Jun 5

The New York trial of Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein has begun. More than one hundred women have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse, harassment, assault, or other charges amid the #MeToo movement. While there are endless lines of women that likely have legitimate claims against Weinstein, his trail is focused on two incidents of rape and sexual assault that took place in New York. One woman accused Weinstein of forced oral sex in 2006, and another woman claims that Weinstein raped her in 2013. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and has denied any non-consensual sex that has ever taken place with any woman he has been with intimately.

Criminal Standard of Guilt

While it can seem rather obvious to the public that Weinstein has committed lewd, horrible acts of sexual assault, the court must follow the criminal standard of proof to obtain a conviction: guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution will have to present clear evidence that Weinstein did commit the rape and sexual assault on the two women. Sex crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute, which could make this trial more complicated than the public may imagine.

Misconceptions of Sexual Assault and Harassment

While the environment for victims of harassment is changing, we have a long way to go. The go-to defense strategy of any accuser is to call a victim a “liar.” Weinstein’s defense is likely to point out that alleged victims continued to have contact with him post-assault, attempting to prove that any sexual contact was consensual. This is a big misconception of victims of sexual harassment and assault. In situations of power and control, victims often don’t have a choice but to be in continuous contact with the perpetrator, especially when there is an employer-employee relationship. A victim needs the financial security of their job, so they feel powerless to leave.

Weinstein’s defense team may also focus on the length of time it took victims to report the assaults. However, this is common with survivors of abuse. Women are often scared to report abuse and harassment due to the professional and personal repercussions it could cause. In the past, perpetrators would rarely face any consequences, and the victim would be the one outcasted.

Victims are sometimes also criticized for their motives in coming forward, also likely to be addressed in the Weinstein trial. The defense may try to insinuate that these women are looking for a pay-day, national attention, or just trying to pander to the #MeToo movement. Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to significant publicized cases. Victims of workplace sexual harassment and assault are also looked at as “attention-seekers” or “trouble makers” when reporting abuse.

The Weinstein trial is truly a microcosm of employment harassment as a whole. We must hold perpetrators, especially those in the public eye, accountable for their abuse. If he is convicted, it will (hopefully) set a precedent that sexual harassment and abuse of women will not be tolerated in any circumstance, workplace or otherwise. We will keep you informed on any updates in the Weinstein trial.

If you have been a victim of workplace sexual harassment, contact our office at (415) 545-8608. We are happy to discuss your case with you, determine how we can help, and get you the legal assistance you need.

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