In the first court conviction successfully levied against the movie producer, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty today of two felony sex crimes. The jury determined that the former producer forced oral sex on production assistant Mimi Haleyi in July 2006 and raped actress Jessica Mann in 2013. The former occurred in his apartment; the latter in a hotel room.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for nearly 27 hours over five days.
Weinstein was not found guilty of predatory sexual assault allegations, the most severe charges, which each carried a potential life sentence.
Even still, more than two years after the first allegations against him emerged, feminists around the world celebrate this undeniable victory and remember the long road that got us to this point.
In October 2017, two New York Times reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, published a story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein. Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd are among the women who come forward.
From there, the #MeToo movement spread instantly, as an avalanche of stories from women using the hashtag appeared, speaking about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace.
The 2018 Women’s March marked the second-largest single-day protest in U.S. History—beat out only by the prior year’s march, held the day after President Trump was inaugurated.
In reaction to the conviction, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris kept her eyes on future cases, like Weinstein’s next one in Los Angeles.
“Justice was served today and Harvey Weinstein was held accountable for his crimes,” Carteris wrote in a statement. “We hail the courage and conviction of the powerful survivors who brought this case to trial and saw it through to the verdict. This verdict sends a thunderous message to other harassers and abusers: You can’t run and you can’t hide any longer. Increasingly, if you harass or abuse, you will be reported, you will get caught and you will be prosecuted. … But it is only a beginning. We look forward to the Weinstein prosecution in Los Angeles where he will be brought to answer for other offenses.”
Justice. All of the marching, protesting, hashtagging, sharing, crying, and healing led to today’s slice of justice—especially in light of the rarity of a guilty verdict like Weinstein’s when seeking justice for sexual assault.
“A vast majority of sexual assault cases never reach the courtroom,” wrote Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former assistant Manhattan district attorney. “Most sexual assaults are never reported; of those that are, few ever result in arrest or prosecution.”
But she knows #MeToo has a long way to go to reach its ultimate goal: the end of gender and sexual violence.
“The movement’s reach is ambitious—it demands that we transform our culture of male sexual entitlement and the misconduct it begets,” Tuerkheimer wrote. “But legal accountability is part of this evolution.”
Perhaps now, with the law on our side, this transformation will be ambitious, yet possible.
And, I have hope. Since 2017, I have seen my male friends grow more open to conversations about masculinity, power, sexual misconduct and gender. I have heard their disgust when remembering locker room talk that they used to either encounter or partake in. I have marched by their sides when advocating for women’s rights.
Yes, I have hope. Cautious hope—with an awareness of our society still resting on a patriarchal groundwork and of our nation currently being run by a sexist bigot—but hope nonetheless.