Mr Weinstein’s interrogation of the accused sought to take advantage of what was likely to be the deep suspicion held by some of the women jurors who report sexual assault. it’s a No surprise These ancient tactics were used to discredit the witnesses. Sometimes, they are portrayed as lying for luck or fame. They were blamed for putting themselves in a vulnerable position. They were introduced as women retaliating against consensual sex. The question now is how long these familiar awards will retain their strength in an era when the accused face an opportunity, however far from it, to believe.
Throughout the trial and the jury’s deliberations, many #MeToo supporters felt a sense of urgency. They asked, if Mr. Weinstein was not held accountable, what hope has been achieved by ordinary survivors of sexual violence who seek criminal justice?
During the past six months, while researching a book on credibility, I have spent many hours talking to victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Our conversations often turned into meaningful accountability.
Some survivors told me that they do not want anything to do with the criminal justice system. For others, the protection of potential future victims was the main reason for resorting to the courts. Still others believe that criminal conviction is an admission of the harm they have suffered and that it is important. For these survivors and countless others, Mr. Weinstein’s conviction is a reason for hope.
Certainly, #MeToo aims to do more than just send the worst criminals to prison. The extension of the movement is ambitious – it requires us to transform our culture from male sexual entitlement and the misconduct it generates. But legal accountability is part of this development.
This shift may also require reform of our sexual assault laws, which continue to focus on physical strength rather than disapproval. In the case of Mrs. Haley, the jury certified in her testimony that he forced her to have oral sex, and the condemnation of this first-degree criminal offense carries a maximum sentence of up to 25 years. But Mrs. Mann’s conviction in the third-degree rape case did not require proof of force and a maximum penalty of only four years. What the law fails to perceive is another dynamic at work: coercion. Weinstein’s defendants described him as controlling their professional and personal lives in ways that were essentially not physical. But the sexual assault law does little to such a force.
Weinstein’s convictions show us that real progress is underway. But the system remains mostly a failed survivor. Poor women, who go out alone – especially these women – will remain unbelievers and blameless. Even women whose issues do not make the headlines deserve more than just an elusive promise of criminal justice.
Long-term prejudices against the accused will not disappear overnight; not even an extraordinary conviction that can reshape the world. But Weinstein’s rulings indicate that we are beginning to correct the course.
Deborah Turkheimer Professor at Pritzker College of Law in Northwestern and former lawyer in Manhattan County.