Institutional Courage: What It Takes to Keep Harvey Weinstein, and Men Like Him, Behind Bars

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s opinion piece in The New York Times on Harvey Weinstein’s appeal offers an excellent opportunity to interrogate the larger systems in the U.S. that enable violence against women. But Vance’s article excluded a critical piece of the story: his decision not to press charges against Weinstein in 2015 after Ambra Battilana Gutierrez presented a recording of Weinstein admitting to groping her breast.

Women who experience sexual and physical violence are often criticized for delays in reporting. But if institutional inaction and underhandedness are more common responses than not when women do report, then why would they?

Overturning Harvey Weinstein’s Conviction Shows Poor Understanding of Violence Against Women

Context is everything when it comes to sexual and physical violence against women. Harvey Weinstein had more than a “propensity” for sexual assault; he demonstrated a serially predatory pattern of behavior of targeting and violating women and learned from the systems that enabled him that he could get away with it. Knowledge of this pattern is not prejudicial; it is necessary for a thorough understanding of the perpetrator.

The overturning of Weinstein’s conviction merely emphasizes the degree to which protection of sexual predators at their victims’ expense and permissibility of male violence against women are entrenched in our institutions. If our legal system cannot appreciate the relevance of historical patterns of behavior, we can never combat violence against women successfully.

A Thousand Little Moments: The Insidious Loss of Women’s Freedom to Christian Nationalism

Leaving a toxic marriage also meant temporarily abandoning my dream of motherhood. I grieve the loss of the future I imagined. Perhaps one day, I will have my own baby who will know how much she was wanted and loved. That dream is deferred. But the dream is altogether shattered for many women, in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are considered children. Republicans cannot ignore their role in this devastating turn.

Women are losing both the right to end unwanted or dangerous pregnancies and the right to become pregnant. The common factor is the loss of women’s choice. If our country’s concept of family stability relies on depriving women of their choices, we do not have stable families; we have prisoners.

Abortion Bans Increase the Need for Survivor Support

The best thing that we as physicians can do is to believe women, holding their hands and offering our unconditional support as we guide them through the pain and connect them to the healthcare resources that suit their best interests. This includes access to safe, legal abortion, a narrow avenue for recourse that recent and current GOP candidates threaten to narrow further.

But I am one doctor. There is only so much that I can do. I cannot single-handedly change our society.

Right-Wing Hubris Puts Ideology Over Medical Expertise—And Women Suffer

Texas anti-abortion lawmakers’ decisions enforce inferior medical care that harms women, prioritizing personal belief over evidence-based medicine and codifying misogyny into standard of care. The most recent decision by the Fifth Circuit, which allows denial of an emergency abortion to a critically ill pregnant patient, highlights the chilling truth that the life of the mother is not, in fact, a priority in the eyes of the law.

As physicians, we can follow neither our ethics nor appropriate standard of care if uninformed politicians flagrantly disrespect our training. If they can undermine our careful decision-making with brute force and no medical qualifications, then what is the point of our expertise?