OPINION: The Reporting of the Harvey Weinstein Case Needs to Change

Harvey Weinstein

WARNING: This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering to survivors.

On February 25 2020, Harvey Weinstein received a guilty verdict in a landmark #MeToo trial.

On February 19 2013, he allegedly attacked 30-year-old Lauren Marie Young, after he invited her up to his suite following a business meeting in a hotel lobby.

On February 6 2020, Young testified against Weinstein at the Manhattan Supreme Court, where he was facing trial for sexual assault.

According to her testimony, the once-powerful movie mogul allegedly had led the actress into the bathroom of the suite, followed by his associate Claudia Salinas who closed the door.

Weinstein allegedly quickly undressed, turned on the shower and rinsed off.

“I stood there in shock… laughing… shaking my head and I went to go to the door to approach it,” Young recalled and then added that Weinstein had stepped in front of it.

The following is a word-for-word transcript.

“At that point he was right in front of me and the shower door was right behind him and was also blocking the door behind me … I could see the shadow and Claudia was still standing there. I felt so trapped and I was in shock and started to back up away from him.”

“He unzipped it and started pulling it down and turned me around and he started masturbating while grasping my right breast with his left hand while jerking off with his right hand saying, ‘How am I going to know you can act?’”

“I’m saying, ‘no, no, no’ and he’s carrying on with normal conversation – ‘This is what all the actresses do to make it.'”

This situation is not a unique one — as the #MeToo movement suggests. In fact in Australia, 17% of women and 4% of men have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.

I am one of that 17%.

As I read the news of Harvey Weinstein’s trial — and the graphic details of the assault that Young reportedly endured, I felt my pulse quicken. A lump grew in my throat. My palms became sweaty and I had to close the page.

Thoughts of my own experience raced through my mind. I could feel Young’s pain through her words — all right there on my screen. The only warning: “graphic”.

As a victim of sexual assault, I believe more work needs to be done when reporting on cases like Weinstein’s, by highlighting a clearer and more prominent trigger warning. It’s pretty safe to say ‘graphic’ barely scrapes the surface of Weinstein’s witness statements.

Four years ago I was working in a local pub near my house and I had just broken up with my boyfriend.

I was going through a vulnerable phase and if a male paid attention to me, no matter who it was, I would listen.

One night, a man and his friend came into the pub and we got talking. He lived nearby and a group of us ended up going back to his house after I finished work.

One thing led to another and I ended up staying over. The events of that night were consensual. The next night was not.

The following day he invited me over once again, but this time, we had both been at staff Christmas parties. He had been drinking (I assume), and I was drunk on champagne.

That night I lay on his bed fully clothed, falling in and out of consciousness. All I remember was him on top of me, masturbating.

I remember looking up and wanting to tell him to stop. But my mouth wouldn’t open.

The following morning he apologised to me. Blamed it on the alcohol. Said he didn’t mean it. Then he sent me on my way.

I was still wearing my party outfit and my shoes were in my hand. I’d never felt so ashamed. He never called me again.

Over the next few years, our paths would cross a few more times. We would run into each other on occasion.

For years, I wanted him to like me, so whenever I saw him, I was bubbly and friendly like I was talking to a friend.

But he wasn’t my friend. He was someone who sexually assaulted me.

The weird thing was I never realised the gravity of what had happened at the time. I suppressed the fact that what he did was illegal.

It wasn’t until this year that I started recalling what happened with my friends and each time I told the story, I would see the look of horror in their eyes.

For some reason, it took me all this time to admit that what he had done was nothing short of illegal. He had abused his power and had taken away some of mine.

Recently, our paths crossed again.

For the first time since it happened, I saw him and froze. I wanted to vomit. I told my work colleague straight up: “that’s the guy who assaulted me”. My colleague did everything he could to move me away from the situation.

Little did I know that after all these years I would be so triggered just at the sight of him.

Why am I sharing this story now?

Over the next few days, Harvey Weinstein will appear in the media with details of his trial and subsequent sentence all over the news. The harrowing and graphic details of the case will still continue to be shared. I urge those reporting to share a visible trigger warning.

More and more women and men like me will remember what it was like to feel violated and betrayed.

I stand with these women who are so brave enough to share their story and so here I am, sharing mine.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual or physical violence, please call 1800-RESPECT, a national telephone support line or find more support services HERE.

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