On account of the Manhattan jury verdict on the 17th of February, Harvey Weinstein is now a convicted rapist. The Hollywood baron has been charged with criminal sexual acts in the first degree and third-degree rape. However, he was acquitted of the most serious charges against him. Weinstein, therefore, faces a maximum sentence of 29 years. This verdict would inevitably shape the course of the #MeToo movement, but in what way?
For many, the trial served as a crucial test in exposing whether men who wield so much wealth and power in the industry would be held accountable for their atrocious sexual violence. Over eighty women came forward to accuse Weinstein of similar acts. Just two women gained a degree of justice, providing a grim reminder of how difficult it is to secure a conviction for rapists. Yet beyond this, the trial functioned as a pivotal moment, with the outcome having enormous implications for future sexual abuse cases. Times Up, the organisation created by Hollywood celebrities in response to the #MeToo movement, described the Weinstein trial as ‘a victory for survivors everywhere.’ The fact that the tycoon was finally exposed by the brave women he attempted to intimidate into silence hopefully represents the beginning of a new era of justice. But in terms of real reform, what exactly has changed?
In Hollywood, agencies have reportedly taken action to increase safety for women. Performers unions have called producers to stop requesting locations such as private homes and hotel rooms to hold meetings. Intimacy directors have increasingly been hired to monitor sexual scenes in movies to prevent abuse. Studios have become more diligent in not hiring directors and actors who have a record of offence. In legal terms, 15 states have passed laws to protect employees from sexual harassment since 2017. This included the banning or limitation of nondisclosure agreements, contracts that have been proven to facilitate predators. Many other US states have expanded the limitation of statues for sex crimes to ten years instead of two, allowing more time for victims to file lawsuits. Visibly, there is evidence of the emergence of positive, tangible change.
Outside of Hollywood, one of the critical successes of the trial was a sense of raised awareness. Anti-sexual violence organisation, RAINN, reported a spike in reports of sexual assault since the initial convictions arose. With sexual assault being one of the least reported crimes and many rapists evading jail time, this is a highly encouraging development. Out of the terrible trial, it is clear a brave female consciousness has developed.
Ultimately, this case does not present an end to sexual violence in the industry by any means. We can, however, see a better understanding amongst people that dreadful things have taken place backstage in Hollywood. An international conversation has been sparked and landmark legislation enacted. Hopefully, this will translate into a truly safer Hollywood for women.
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