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The investigation and subsequent prosecution of entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein for sexual misconduct marked a watershed moment for an international conversation around sexual abuse and harassment. Now, what does Weinstein’s conviction on two felony sex charges mean for the broader MeToo movement? Amna Nawaz sits down with Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center.
Let's look now at the significance of that verdict, not just for the Weinstein case, but the larger questions around assault, the law, and the MeToo movement.
Fatima Goss Graves is the president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center. The center works to change the laws to make it easier for women to come forward.
Welcome to the "NewsHour."
Fatima Goss Graves:
Thanks for having me.
So, you issued a statement after the verdict. It read in part that the statement — the verdict today, rather, delivers what you called a measure of justice, not full, undeniable justice, but a measure of justice.
What did you mean by that?
Well, my thoughts are with the silence breakers generally today.
And it wasn't every count. But what we know is that there was some justice. And I hope it begins to bring them some healing. They didn't find him guilty on the charge that really looked at the pattern of conduct that he had.
And for the silence breakers who came forward, in spite of all of the risks, and had to sit in that courtroom as the defense really brought up every sort of rape myth imaginable, I really hope that the verdict today gives them some sort of feeling of justice and healing and relief.
It's worth reminding people, I think, more than 80 women have come forward with some kind of allegations against Harvey Weinstein since 2017, although this trial was based on just those testimonies of the six women.
I do want to ask you, though. We were waiting to see what the defense attorneys had to say. Mr. Weinstein didn't take the stand in his defense. They have put out a statement in response to the verdict, saying that they will appeal. They also said that there are issues in the trial that they said were extremely troubling and they prejudiced Mr. Weinstein's ability to have his case fairly judged.
That's a statement from his defense attorneys, Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis.
But the defense rested their case in part on this idea that, if someone raped you, why would you ever be in touch with that person? Why would you remain in contact with that person?
And that is really what they went after Jessica Mann with in cross-examination. It complicated prosecutors' case. How did you look at that moment?
Well, I actually looked at it as, the life cycle of survivor is not at all what they were describing.
It's very common not to come forward right away. It's very common, especially if this is a person who's in the same business as you, to see that person. And so what happened in that courtroom is, they kept putting out every sort of rape myth that is so sticky in our culture, and the jury clearly rejected it.
They instead relied on what is far more typical survivor behavior. I think that that is an important thing for that courtroom. But it actually demonstrates that perhaps we have had some real progress in this last two years, that people are really understanding what violence looks like in this country.
There was another part of their defense I want to get your take on, which was that this is not about what you may believe to be true about this man. It's about what you can prove to be true in a court of law.
And , as we all know, with rape cases, with sexual assault cases, you're talking about what happens between two people, typically when they're alone.
How do you balance that, when you're talking about accountability and the burden of proof in a court of law, and reconcile that with this rallying cry and the message of believing women in this moment in time?
Of course, there's lots of ways to judge credibility of witnesses, not just in sexual violence cases, but in any cases.
And there are often no witnesses to particular crimes. But it's only in the issue of sexual violence where we start with this narrative and trope that the person is likely lying. That is one of the stickiest that we had to disrupt.
And the prosecutor — and the defense attorneys continued to put that myth out there, that they are likely lying, and did so not just in the courtroom, but in op-eds and in interviews outside of the courtroom as well.
There was this big question. When these six women came forward and took the stand and shared their stories, will it matter? Will powerful men like Harvey Weinstein be held accountable in some way?
It took dozens of stories. It took The New York Times breaking stories. It took all of these women coming forward. It took years and years and years for this one man to be held accountable. It's not necessarily inspiring for a lot of women who could look at that and say, I could go through that too.
What do you say to them?
Yes, here's what is inspiring, because you are totally right that we had to have two different investigations, books detailing the allegations, prosecutors finally bringing it.
But I have been inspired by the fact that so many people did come forward, not just about allegations around Harvey Weinstein, but allegations about their own personal abuser across sector.
These silence breakers ignited a movement. And for the last two years, people have been telling their stories. They have been upending institutions. They have been prompting states to introduce and pass laws.
We have had over 200 laws — 200 bills introduced in states, and over 10 states have actually passed laws to improve their harassment — the way harassment works in their state.
That's just in recent years?
That is just the last two years, right?
So, you're seeing change.
That is real progress.
We're not done, right? We won't be done until everyone can tell their story and know it will be received and taken seriously and something important will happen.
Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women's Law Center, thanks for being here.
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