Hollywood and women’s support groups have hailed the 23-year prison sentence handed down to Harvey Weinstein on Wednesday (11) as the decision triggered a complex outpouring of emotions.
“Harvey Weinstein’s legacy will always be that he’s a convicted rapist,” the group of accusers known as Silence Breakers said in a statement. “He is going to jail – but no amount of jail time will repair the lives he ruined, the careers he destroyed, or the damage he has caused.”
Kirsten Shaffer, executive director of Women In Film, Los Angeles, told Screen: “Justice was served. It is what it should be. He will be in prison most likely for the rest of his life. One of the really important things is it doesn’t undo the harm that was done to all of the women, but it sends a message that this kind of behaviour won’t be tolerated and that the culture is changing.”
’Hopefully it sets a precedent for more cases to come forward’
Asked whether she had expected the length of sentence, Sheffer added: “It is what we hoped for but, we were unsure. We have men accused of sexual assault in the White house and on the Supreme Court and that makes many women apprehensive about how assault cases will be decided and sentenced.”
However on the whole she said Wednesday’s sentencing would give hope to accusers. “It makes women feel more comfortable in coming out and telling their stories. Hopefully it sets a precedent for more cases to come forward.”
Standing outside the New York State Supreme Court women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred (who was not a participant in the recent Manhattan trial) held up a hand-made notice that read, “This is what justice looks like 20 + 3 years”.
“This is a new day,” said Allred. “It’s a new day for women to know that if you have courage, there will be consequences for the predators who hurt you. For the predators who are going to wake up in fear tomorrow and say are they coming for me next, my answer is probably yes.”
’We’ve all done business with him and it’s created a complex structure of feelings’
One former Weinstein employee who asked to speak anonymously offered insight into the emotional complexity of the case and its outcome.
“I was one of the people who thought he would never see a day in jail,” the executive said. “We’ve all done business with him and it’s created a complex structure of feelings. I don’t feel sorry for him because he needs to be punished, but it’s the whole notion of having to re-examine how I view men and how complicit we all are in sexual harassment, particularly as a woman who has felt pushed down in various ways.
“After being beaten down for so long, to think there’s justice in this world is such a new feeling… I am encouraged by the bravery of so many women who have come forward… This is a lesson for the future that people cannot get away with this any more. Even though people are still doing this, they must know they cannot get away with it. This behavior isn’t going away overnight.”
The person continued: “It’s so clear to me he doesn’t have any remorse and he doesn’t think he did anything wrong and he really doesn’t understand what’s happening to him. But that’s consistent with his personality – he always thought he would get away with it and a lot of it is about power… You can’t deny he started thousands of careers. I respected him at some point in my career. It’s complex. The whole thing makes me sad.”
’It took a tremendous amount of brave women to put themselves in the spotlight’
Solstice Studios president and CEO Mark Gill worked with Weinstein in his former role as president of Miramax Los Angeles and was quoted in the original exposé in The New York Times in October 2017. In the article Gill said rumours of Weinstein’s mistreatment of women were “the biggest mess of all” behind the face of the company, and recalled how female executives would double up when Weinstein summoned them for solo meetings.
Gill, who told Screen that after the article ran in The New York Times he received calls both congratulating him and suggesting his Hollywood career was over, said: “I am so happy that justice is served against one of the most powerful, manipulative and brilliant lever-pullers that exists in New York.
“That wasn’t going to be easy for the prosecutors and they did it. It took a tremendous amount of brave women to put themselves in the spotlight and expose themselves to awful stuff from [Weinstein’s] defence team and investigators. This is how the world changes.
“The fear around this issue has radically diminished and the chances of justice have improved. We see it in expectations of employees and how people are treated in media. Office culture has changed radically. There are all sorts of things that will get you fired now. It’s not perfect and there is a long way to go.”
A multitude of people took to Twitter to express themselves, among them Mira Sorvino, who has been an outspoken Weinstein accuser. “23 years,” she wrote. “Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for his crimes of rape and sexual assault. I literally cried tears of amazement, gratitude that the justice system has worked on behalf of all of his victims today.”