by: Daniel O’Neill ’21 A&E Staff
In recent years, it has come to light that the entertainment industry, particularly Hollywood, is riddled with sexual assault and abuse. Since the #MeToo movement emerged, popular figures such as Kevin Spacey, Sylvester Stallone, Jamie Foxx, and many others have been accused of sexual misconduct by many women. Recently, one figure in particular, Harvey Weinstein, has become the face of sexual abuse in Hollywood.
On Feb. 24, a Manhattan jury found Weinstein guilty of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree. The trial lasted six weeks in total, and the jury convicted him in four days. He was not found guilty of the two charges of predatory sexual assault that many of the victims were hoping for. The sexual assault charge comes from 2006 and involves his former assistant Mimi Haleyi, while the third-degree rape charge comes from 2013 involving actress Jessica Mann.
Over a dozen women came forward accusing Weinstein of various forms of sexual abuse during his time as a producer. Weinstein claimed that all sexual encounters with his accusers were consensual and that he was innocent. This trial was the beginning of what many hoped would be the start of a crusade against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
After the verdict was announced to Weinstein, he was handcuffed and removed from the courtroom by court security guards. Not long afterwards, he left the courthouse in an ambulance. Currently, he is being held in a hospital cell awaiting treatment for a failed back surgery that occurred back in December. After he is successfully treated, he will be moved to the infamous New York City prison, Rikers Island. Weinstein’s lead defense lawyers are planning to appeal the decision made by the court as soon as Weinstein is sentenced.
Weinstein is due in court on March 11 before he faces another trial in Los Angeles for more sexual misconduct charges. Ultimately, the conviction of Weinstein is a massive leap forward for the #MeToo movement. Many supporters of the movement hope that the verdict will encourage more victims to come forward, whether it be against Weinstein or any other abusers.
The Weinstein case raises many concerns regarding the institutional power that Hollywood has. Since Weinstein was not the only accused powerful figure of the #MeToo movement, there now stands the serious issue of the abuse of power in the entertainment industry. Up until the recent trial, Weinstein’s acts depicted the non-existent moral code of the entertainment elite. Now, the abusers see the first true signs of consequence for their actions.
The entertainment industry is centered on self-expression, yet the power dynamic of institutions like Hollywood prevents this. The #MeToo movement is an empowering way for victims to come forward and share their stories, even though they may be debilitating to share. With the Weinstein verdict last week, it is more likely that more survivors will come forward and share their stories. The #MeToo movement is picking up steam, and it is an important, powerful outlet for the survivors of senseless and heinous acts at the hands of people like Weinstein.