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Onetime aspiring actress Dawn Dunning and New York actress and model Tarale Wulff, who were key prosecution witnesses that helped convict Harvey Weinstein on rape and criminal sexual assault charges in March 2020, came out in support of New York State penal law reforms to define the meaning of consent in sexual crime cases on Tuesday.
“By applying consent in general laws, this bill makes it clear that the same consent that protects your property protects your body,” Wulff told a press conference in New York City after New York Assembly member Rebecca Seawright unveiled Bill #A6540, which would define consent in that state’s general laws.
Under the Seawright proposal, consent will be defined as “freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement … obtained without the use of malice such as forcible compulsion, duress, coercion, deception, fraud, concealment, or artifice.” Dunning, who provided supporting evidence of Weinstein’s alleged pattern of behavior as a sex crime offender, recalled the trial jury asking Judge James Burke for a definition of consent and them being told they needed to use their common sense.
Judge Steven O’Neill in the Bill Cosby trials in Pennsylvania similarly left it to the trial jury to define consent without providing guidance from state statutes. Defining consent not only for sexual assault, but for all crimes would, Dunning argued, ensure all sexual offenses will be “prosecuted consistently, providing equal protection to all, and make sexual assault crimes easier to prosecute and report.”
Dunning, who testified at the trial for being allegedly sexually assaulted by Weinstein in 2004, added the #MeToo movement had signaled sexual assault and other crimes will no longer be tolerated. “This bill provides solutions that guides behavior and will hold people accountable,” she concluded.
Wulff also told the presser she didn’t know consent wasn’t defined in law for juries before she got on the witness stand to testify that the former Hollywood mogul allegedly raped her in 2005. “In his final statement, Weinstein claimed to be confused and that he thought most men are confused,” she recalled.
“By clearly defining consent, there will be no more confusion,” Wulff added, echoing Dunning in insisting a new generation of people now demand being heard. “The revolutionary energy has always been there. It’s grown and it’s contagious and it’s bringing volume to voices that were unheard or silenced in the past,” she argued.
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