By Manahil Hassan, March 5 2020—
On Feb. 24, 2020, former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was found guilty on one account of rape of the third degree against Jessica Mann and of one criminal sexual act in the first degree against Mimi Haley. What piques the interest of many onlookers and individuals that followed the case was the acquittal of Weinstein on two accounts of predatory sexual assault.
When the trial began, the perpetrator faced five accounts of rape including predatory sexual assault which holds a sentence of life in prison. Nevertheless, despite the acquittal of the two most serious charges, the imprisonment of Harvey Weinstein is a win for the #MeToo Movement and will pave the way for more victims to come forward and tell their stores.
There is no doubt that for years now, women have been on the unfavourable end of petty sexual remarks, unwanted sexual attention and even rape. There is no doubt that for years, women and supporters of our plight for more success, have been fighting and endlessly campaigning for more rights and more respect wherever we go. Whether it is on the street, in the bedroom or courtroom, we have suffered and kept quiet for a long time and the time came for us to stand against this unacceptable behavior. The #MeToo Movement was and still is the embodiment of this and finally, Harvey Weinstein’s conviction has provided for some positive reinforcement.
This case is vital to the #MeToo Movement as a success story. It is already very difficult to convict for rape cases and very few even make it to trial. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “out of every 1,000 allegations of rape, 13 cases will get referred to a prosecutor and seven will lead to a felony conviction.” To put these numbers into perspective only 1.3 per cent of cases are referred to a prosecutor and even fewer lead to a conviction. It is already extremely difficult for women to deal and come to terms with the fact that they were raped and sexually assaulted. It takes even more bravery and courage to remain vulnerable and take your case to the police. If the case does go to trial, they must face the pestering and invasive questions of the defense if they are providing a witness testimony. In simple terms, it is not easy for any victim to face the world after what has happened to them. So, the fact that the victims of this case were even brave enough to speak out against someone as powerful as Harvey Weinstein in a misogynistic industry such as Hollywood, is a victory in and of itself. As small as the conviction of Harvey Weinstein may seem, we cannot change the world in one day or with one case. Baby steps are needed to change the minds of others and morph Hollywood and other industries so that they are more empathetic to women. This case itself will pave the path for more success stories such as this.
Additionally, when looking at the legal ramifications of this case and analyzing the evidence and circumstances of what happened, it would have been hard for the jury to convict Harvey Weinstein of rape in the first degree and predatory sexual assault as “there was no physical compulsion with the threat of bodily harm or death, but there was no consent given despite a lack of physical resistance and a reasonable person should have known that there was no consent given in that instance,” according to Drew Malbin, a juror in the Harvey Weinstein case. In an interview with CBS, Malbin stated that he and the other 11 jurors were told specifically to look at the evidence given to them and abided religiously by saying “innocent until proven guilty.”
At first glance, reading about this upset me. Questions such as ‘Why didn’t Harvey Weinstein get life in prison? Or ‘Why didn’t he get a harsher sentence,’ raced through my mind. After all, he deserved it considering all the pain he put his victims through. However, after spending more time reading and listening to what the juror had to say I agree with him. Harvey Weinstein is and will always be a convicted rapist and has hurt many people in the past, but this was a legal case. The jurors had one job and that was to look at the information they had at hand and make a fair and impartial decision based on that. As far as I am concerned, that is what they did.
Our society still has mountains to move before we become civilized and empathetic but small victories should be celebrated. A man was put in prison — more importantly, a powerful man. We are changing things for the better. The change may be slow, but it is moving in the right direction.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.