New York Magazine’s Irin Carmon on her latest reporting
Harvey Weinstein appeared in court Monday for a criminal trial — more than two years after the sexual misconduct allegations against the former Hollywood titan first emerged. Weinstein has now been publicly accused of misconduct by more than 100 women. New York Magazine’s Irin Carmon spoke with some of these women for a new piece — accompanied by a powerful image of 21 of his accusers with their arms linked. Here, Irin takes us behind the scenes, and tells us what to expect in the trial.
Katie Couric: The Weinstein story has dominated headlines for more than two years now, and today his criminal trial finally kicked off. For the many accusers you spoke with, what is the significance of a day like today?
Irin Carmon: Harvey Weinstein has for years evaded any kind of accountability for the allegations against him, including a brush with law enforcement in 2015, when the NYPD investigated him for allegations made by Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. The D.A. declined to bring charges.
For years, New York and Hollywood reporters were in Harvey Weinstein’s thrall. People who did try to publish allegations against him — which happened many times — were thwarted one way or another, until the New Yorker and the New York Times published heavily reported accounts.
It’s taken so long to get to this point. When it was one woman — Ambra Battilana Gutierrez — reporting to the NYPD, the D.A. dismissed her. Now, we counted 100 women who have made public allegations against them. We don’t know how many are out there. So it’s clear that it took a lot of women putting themselves on the line to even get to the point where Harvey Weinstein has to answer for these charges in court.
They told me they’re exhausted, but they are feeling validated that at least Harvey Weinstein is being held accountable in a way he was never before.
Your piece states that, “For decades, Weinstein had successfully isolated his targets from one another… His exposure brought them together.” Can you tell us about the bond that many of these women have?
Over the past two years, since many women went public about their experiences with Harvey Weinstein, they have started slowly to speak to each other. For a long time, he either allowed people to believe that this was just business as usual — that other women had said said yes, so what was wrong with them? Which is isolating if they did not feel that same way, and it often turned out to be not true. But once this was all exposed in the press and people came out on their own, they realized that pattern.
So it’s quite easy to dismiss an individual woman’s account. But it’s a lot harder to dismiss it when you see a modus operandi: Women who don’t know each other coming forward with allegations that were remarkably similar and that show really a plan of attack. That’s the beginning of bonding.
And another interesting thing that I didn’t get into in the piece is that there are significant differences in terms of the access and status of these women and their professional lives. Some of them are famous actresses like Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan; some of them told me that they can’t afford the plane fare to come to New York to see the trial because they’re really struggling. For the women who are in the public eye for the first time, having other people who are going through this experience has been a huge source of support.
Your story features an incredible image of 21 of Weinstein’s accusers linked together. It’s the sort of image that evokes the now-iconic New York Magazine cover of Bill Cosby’s accusers as well. So what do you think makes this image so powerful?
I was just totally blown away when I saw these women together. Amanda Demme photographed them. I was at the shoot, and she really did an amazing job of showing the women’s strength. I believe that it was Tara Subkoff who suggested that they pose with their arms linked — because she said, “We are linked.” Showing them in a stance that is powerful and united was really important to them.
Now the trial has started, and we’re already seeing headlines coming out of it. What can we expect with this trial and what allegations specifically are included in this case?
It’s one thing to report on something in the press — and it’s really another to 1) bring criminal charges, and 2) to actually get a conviction. There are statutes of limitation. There are certain kinds of evidence that prosecutors want to see before they bring a case against someone. There are a lot of women who are still afraid to participate in a criminal inquiry, and they’re still afraid of what Harvey might have on them. They just don’t really want to be that public; they want to move on with their lives.
So in the end, in New York, he is charged in connection with allegations made by two different women. One of them is sexual assault, and the other one is rape. In addition, we’re going to hear from other women: Three of whom are going to testify to Harvey Weinstein, broader pattern of behaviors and the fourth, Annabella Sciorra, who said that Harvey Weinstein raped her, is going to testify to her experience in an attempt to establish predatory sexual assault.
Now, predatory sexual assault is basically a legal charge that says you’re a serial offender. Even though Annabella Sciorra’s story is from the early 1990s and it’s too old under current law, it can still be used to try to establish that Harvey’s a serial offender. So in the end, only two women, at least in this New York case, are going to have their cases heard. But we’ll hear from being more. Charges today were announced in Los Angeles, and we might see them in Beverly Hills and in London. So there may be other trials.
You recently covered the anniversary of the Weinstein allegations emerging, and what has happened since then and what still needs to happen. Can you tell us where we stand in the fight against workplace sexual harassment?
We were really interested in talking to people who had come forward, both before and during the fall of 2017 — because people tend to read these stories for a while and then move on. There are also assumptions about why somebody may report sexual violence. For example, some of those assumptions might be that they’re doing it to promote their career, that they’re doing it for money, or that they’re doing for revenge.
So we thought it would be interesting — Amelia Schonbek and me, with an essay by Rebecca Traister — to really look at what happened after. What we found is often really challenging situations follow the process of reporting. It cost people money in legal defense and in public relations consultations and in lost jobs. It cost people relationships in their lives. But most said that they would do it again.
In terms of what’s left to be done: Think about how we constantly tell people that, “If something happens to you, you should report it on day one and you should immediately go to the police.” But then look at the reality of what happens when they do come forward. How do you create a space that isn’t so punitive for people who want to make complaints?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This originally appeared on Medium.com