"I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10. I am a professional and have tried to be professional. I am not treated that way however. I am sexualized and diminished."
— From Lauren O’Connor‘s memo
That memo addressed to Weinstein Company executives was quoted by the The New York Times in its exposé of Hollywood’s decades-long “open secret”—the sexual misconduct of one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry.
O'Connor was a former employee whose accusation of sexual harassment by her boss would be echoed by dozens of other women interviewed by The Times in the course of its investigation.
They included actresses Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevigne, Rose McGowan, and the Filipino-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.
Angelina told The Times in an e-mail exchange, "I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did."
She added, "This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable."
At that time, she was working on the movie Playing By Heart (1998), a film distributed by Miramax Films, which Harvey built with his brother Bob.
The report also cited Gwyneth, 45, who was 22 when she was summoned to a hotel meeting with Weinstein. She went, found herself dodging his sexual advances, and walked out in shock.
She kept her mouth shut about the incident as ordered and Weinstein at a professional distance.
She told The Times, "I was expected to keep the secret."
WHY ONLY NOW? Now that Hollywood’s “open secret” is an out-and-out public scandal, the question in many people’s mind is how could Weinstein have gotten his way for so long?
His abuse of women had gone on for three decades, why wasn’t it reported sooner? Why didn’t the women speak up?
Cara admitted this in her Instagram post, "I was so hesitant about speaking out....I didn't want to hurt his family.
"I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear."
Reporting on the Weinstein scandal, The Guardian quoted British producer Alison Owen who said, "If you had been an actress and Harvey had groped your breasts while you were supposed to be auditioning for him, what are you going to do?
"You're not going to go to the police. They're not going to take that seriously. You're not going to call a journalist because at that point Harvey had the whole media world in his pocket and no one was going to go up against Harvey Weinstein.
"Such is the strength of shame, I think… That's another reason people don't come out."
But the same report also added that journalists have been tracking down cases upon cases of Weinstein's serial harassment of women for years.
People at Miramax have been talking, although in hush-hush tones. The entire Hollywood has been whispering. The victims themselves have to confide to someone at some point.
Still, journalists like Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who finally broke the story in The Times on October 5, were twiddling their thumbs.
They could not publish their story any sooner, despite finding “previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run.”
Why? According to The Times, their sources and the accusers themselves backed out, refusing to go on record.
The Guardian said, “If they wanted to publish, media outlets had to ensure their stories were watertight in case Weinstein sued.”
The British newspaper also quoted Vanity Fair special correspondent Gabriel Sherman, who said “one crucial piece of evidence in the New York Times story was the internal memo in which Lauren O'Connor raised concerns against Weinstein.
"That piece of printed material became one of the foundations of the New York Times report.”
VICTIM-BLAMING. In her memo, O’Conners also said, “remaining silent is causing me great distress.”
The French actress Judith Godrèche told The Times, “This is Miramax… You can’t say anything.”
In The New Yorker article ‘How Men Like Harvey Weinstein Implicate Their Victims in Their Acts,' Jia Tolentino wrote: "[Young] women victimized by sexual harassment... are rarely presented with even a single good option. Stay silent and you have acquiesced to whatever happened. Tell a friend and nothing much will be done. Come forward to an authority figure and you’ll face unfair consequences.”
Furthermore, she said, “If you’re sweet and friendly, you’ll think that it’s your fault for accommodating the situation. If you’re savvy, you knew it was coming. If you’re affectionate, you seemed like you were asking for it all along. If you make dirty jokes or have a good time at parties, then why get moralistic?”
Days after The Times story came out mentioning the episode of Ambra with Harvey, and how her case was dropped by the Manhattan district attorney’s office—even with the evidence of an audio of the mogul “admitting to groping” the Fil-Italian model—comments on her post had not been kind.
Netizens remarked, "she was asking for it" with the way she dressed and because of the racy photos she posted on her Instagram account.
Even fashion designer Donna Karan defended the film producer in her comment to a tabloid reporter.
She said, "You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”
Her remarks were criticized harshly by the fashion magazine W, which said they “came across as a textbook example of the type of victim-blaming that's perpetuated our so-called ’rape culture.’”
Anthony Bourdain also twitted a broadside: "To @dkny How many seventeen year olds have you dressed like they are, in your words, 'asking for it?'"
Certainly, it is wrong to blame women for the violence committed to them. As W pointed out in its October 10 article, "Why Donna Karan’s Remarks Were So Misguided":
“At the heart of conversations about sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace is listening to the victims and giving them the appropriate platform to take their allegations seriously without fearing professional or financial retribution.”
Karan did come around and issued a statement owning up to the impropriety of her remark:
"While answering a question on the red carpet I made a statement that unfortunately is not representative of how I feel or what I believe.
"I have spent my life championing women. My life has been dedicated to dressing and addressing the needs of women, empowering them and promoting equal rights…
"I believe that sexual harassment is NOT acceptable and this is an issue that MUST be addressed once and for all regardless of the individual.
"I am truly sorry to anyone that I offended and everyone that has ever been a victim.”
Gwyneth essentially expressed the same sentiment in The Times story: "We’re at a point in time when women need to send a clear message that this is over. This way of treating women ends now."
Actress Mira Sorvino, one of Harvey's several victims, wrote in an opinion article for TIME, "Victim-shaming must be quelled, and the real evildoers called out and punished to the fullest extent of the law. We must, can and will work together to change that culture right now."