Weinstein accuser calls for more empathy towards rape survivors | World news

There is no such thing as the perfect rape victim, Harvey Weinstein’s accuser and former assistant has saidas she called for more recognition of how survivors respond differently to being attacked.

Weinstein, 67, could be sentenced to as long as 29 years in prison after a jury in New York found him guilty of third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act on Monday. During the trial victims were questioned about their decision to maintain contact with him after first being attacked.

“The Weinstein trial has raised lots of interesting societal issues around what does the perfect rape victim looks like,” said Rowena Chiu, who has accused Weinstein of trying to rape her when she was a 24-year-old assistant working in the London offices of the film producer’s company Miramax.

She said society needed to stop thinking of rape victims as “necessarily running screaming from the room”. “Is the classic rape victim someone who’s friendly with their accused perpetrator afterwards? Do they send friendly emails? What is their reaction like?” said Chiu, 45, who lives in Silicon Valley, California.

“The thing that we’ve learned from the trial is there is no such thing as the perfect rape victim. There is no such thing as the behaviour that one might expect.”

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein arrives at court in New York on Monday, where he was found guilty of rape. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Chiu alleges that Weinstein tried to rape her in a hotel suite during the Venice film festival in 1998. She confided in her friend and fellow assistant at Miramax Zelda Perkins, who confronted the film producer about his actions. The pair then resigned and found lawyers.

They signed a non-disclosure agreement after what Chiu said was weeks of bullying, and were each paid £125,000 in damages. The terms of the agreement stated that they could not even disclose what had happened to mental health professionals without first signing NDAs with Weinstein’s lawyers.

Chiu attempted suicide twice after the incident and only broke her silence five months ago, three years after Perkins first spoke publicly about her experiences without naming her friend. Perkins was 25 at the time of the alleged attack.

The Metropolitan police, who are coordinating British criminal inquiries into allegations against Weinstein, said their investigations were continuing after receiving allegations from 11 women that the film producer had sexually assaulted them in the UK and Ireland. The allegations date between the early 1980s and 2015.

Chiu, who has not formally reported her allegations to the police, said she hoped to see Weinstein face criminal prosecution in the UK. “I think all of the British victims would really like to see him being brought to justice in the UK. Because it [would be] much more meaningful to me personally,” she said.

She joined a growing chorus of voices calling for Weinstein to be stripped of his CBE, which he was awarded in 2004 for contributions to the British film industry. The prime minister’s spokesperson said on Tuesday that the removal of honours was a matter for an independent body, but indicated that Boris Johnson would welcome it in Weinstein’s case.

In March 2018, Perkins appeared in front of the Commons women and equalities select committee to speak about the process by which she was asked to sign her NDA. Mark Mansell, a partner at the law firm Allen and Overy, was subsequently referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over his role in drafting the contract. The committee published a report last year warning that such contracts could “pervert the course of justice”.

Chiu is clear, 20 years on, that signing an NDA wasn’t the right thing for her. “The victim may feel she wants it. The victim’s lawyer may feel it’s the best thing for the victim, but I think that in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault – especially one at work, where there may be a power differential between you and your boss and you don’t want to lose your job – what you feel then may not be what you want in five or 10 or 20 years’ time. And you can’t undo an NDA,” she said.

“There may also be wider implications of signing silencing agreements, namely that within a company or even within society, predatory patterns are not exposed. The Harvey Weinstein case indicates that that’s really dangerous because when a predator offends once, it’s quite likely that he’s going to offend again.”

Chiu said that it was important to acknowledge that Weinstein could not have carried out decades of sexual abuse against potentially hundreds of women without “a vast network of people who enabled and even encouraged that type of behaviour”.

“Some people just turned a blind eye and there was a ‘nudge nudge, wink wink, boys will be boys’ attitude towards Harvey and that puts vulnerable women at risk,” she said.

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