Nine industry women share what it was like to expose long-kept secrets and create a movement of solidarity by calling out the media mogul for harassment and assault: "Everything came rushing back" ... "It was like PTSD" ... "It was the first time I realized I wasn't alone."
The one-two punch of The New York Times' Oct. 5 Harvey Weinstein exposé and Ronan Farrow's New Yorker feature five days later not only reverberated around the world and in Hollywood but also roiled hundreds of women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault by industry predators.
The shock of well-known actresses — be they A-list or activist, from Ashley Judd to Rose McGowan to Mira Sorvino — publicly revealing their pain and shame was eclipsed only by the staggering number of accounts: #MeToo narratives swamped Twitter, uncovering a societal ill on the order of a pandemic. But as other heads rolled in the wake of Weinstein's, the first wave of his accusers already were moving forward to heal through solidarity and create actionable solutions. Meetings of minds led by insiders from Kathleen Kennedy to Eve Ensler started pointing the way to real change. Yet it all started with speaking out.
"As harrowing as it was to use my own name," says Sorvino, who reveals the aftermath of her coming forward here, "once it went to print, I felt an enormous peace wash over me, that I had the courage to tell the truth about a beast and, in so doing, end his dominion of intimidation that had lasted over two decades. I'm glad I did it."
A version of this story first appeared in the 2017 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
"When I was younger, there used to be this chant — "One out of three, my mother, my sister and me" — which meant that one out of three women will be assaulted or abused in her lifetime. But I think it's everyone. I don't know a woman who hasn't had something happen to her. Some of the incidents may have been slight, but most women I know have endured something that isn't very slight.
In late October, the week that the Ronan Farrow piece came out in The New Yorker, five people reached out to me, three of them in the business, telling me what Harvey had done to them, and these people have not come out. Another friend came out to me about having been abused as a child. None of us knew that this had happened to so many of us.
The day that the story was published, Annabella Sciorra called me and said, 'Oh my God, Mira, I've known you for years …' and then she said, 'Harvey raped me.' I had no idea. She was making up her mind about what she wanted to do, and we talked for an hour. It was so horrifying, and I cried for her. Eventually she also gave her story to Ronan."
Weinstein flew her on a private jet to Sundance in 2007, claimed it was grounded and masturbated in front of her at a hotel room meeting.
"I was in a situation where I was trapped. I didn’t even want to go, and by the way, not only agents, but also boyfriends and friends at the time were like, 'Natasha, don't be ridiculous. What's the worst thing that could happen? Don't be silly. It's Harvey Weinstein!' It's a cultural thing. It's a human problem. And I think in the entertainment industry in particular, we have gotten really comfortable with the idea that it's a creative industry, so different rules apply. We do press conferences at hotels, we take meetings at bars. And you start getting lulled into that sense that this is normal. So many people who knew my story with Harvey sent me the [NYT] article. The stories started coming, and you realize you're not the only one, and you start accepting that you've actually been victimized. I don't like being a victim, or the idea of people thinking of me as weak. But to be a victim doesn't mean you're weak, it means that somebody did something bad to you. I had to come to grips with that. I spent three and a half weeks after the stories came out teetering constantly. It was like PTSD."
"As executive director of the L.A.-based nonprofit Echo Parenting & Education, I know about trauma and how to recover from it. If you've been physically or emotionally harmed when you had no control over the situation — which is what happened to all of us who had encounters with Harvey — the way to heal is to take back control. Get a handle on your narrative. What I didn't expect, when the story broke, was that it would feel so big personally, even though it wasn't the worst thing that had happened to me. What it did was bring up childhood sexual abuse that I had not thought about in a long time.
If you experience sexual abuse as a child from the people you trust, your sense of what's dangerous gets totally skewed. We call that losing danger cues. It is no mistake that I ended up in that hotel room with Harvey because someone like me doesn't have very good danger cues. I think that predators scent us out. I wonder how many of us who have come forward had previously experienced trauma in some fashion."
"Harvey Weinstein was one incident, and it was gross (he masturbated in front of me into a potted plant at a New York restaurant), but women have multiple stories of harassers, and I am one of them. I have worked in news since I was 19. My first job out of college was at Fox News. I thought it was normal, to feel like you had to be attractive to men to get ahead. Before I went on-air in a local market, I was a producer for eight years. I'd see it all from the production side: Female talent would show up for work and boss Roger Ailes would call down to the control room and say her skirt was too long, she's not wearing high heels, tell her to change: 'I don't want to see flats ever again.' I would think, 'It's television — there's an aesthetic to worry about.' What's not normal is when Roger made you, as on-air talent, twirl for him, to see how you look from behind. He'd be lying on his office couch, feet up. I remember he had me sit on his lap. He didn't think I was projecting my voice properly and wanted to feel my diaphragm. I knew this was not OK. But all the women there who wanted a career walked this fine line with Roger."
Weinstein chased her and exposed himself to her in his NYC apartment in 1993.
"I carried around this, 'I got away, I got away, I got away.' I felt like shit, though. Like I'm living my life smaller for some reason. I went on, I wasn't going to let him stop me. But it hurt me. I had a lot of conflicted feelings about Hollywood that made it hard for me to go full throttle. I'm confused about what I want. I’m not sure if I'm safe in this world, really. Am I even taken seriously as an intellectual woman? Does my talent even matter?' And I've taken many breaks because this is a town where sex is sold constantly. I just am so tired of the sex part not being this hidden secret, but the main part. And I'm going to be really honest: I am scared of that man. I think if I saw him now, I'd start shaking even though I'd want to be strong. I saw him at the premiere of The King's Speech and I had to just leave. I couldn't handle it. It was just too hard for me, watching him laugh and [seeing people] cheering for him. He's walking around, and it’s like, 'You're a molester and a rapist!'"
In 2000, Weinstein demanded she remove her shirt, among other advances, in a hotel.
"In my case, I had two very professional meetings before I had the one that was not. Here he was, this powerful producer telling me, 'Oh you sing, you dance, you act, great. We've got eight films a year and we want a pool of talent that we can call on.' It seemed like an old studio model. I'm like OK, that's cool. And he literally took a stack of scripts and threw them in front of me from a duffle bag and was like, 'There you go. I want you to read for this, for this, and we'll set it all up.' He built a certain level of trust. And you go in warmed to that next meeting and then it was like, 'Wait, what did you just say to me?' You feel kind of paralyzed, shocked, it's traumatic. I was very disillusioned. I had literally just started. When the story broke, everything came rushing back, cortisol running through your body. It's strangely comforting to know that other women had very similar experiences — everything down to the end where he would still try at the very last moment when you're at the door, saying goodbye, holding the door kind of closed and he'd be just making one last attempt, you know? Everything down to that. The robe, the massages. It just validates that it was real. What is interesting is that the representation I have had since has been female. Like maybe I had a fear of working with men."
She rejected Weinstein's advances at a 2002 Cannes party, possibly costing then-boyfriend Ioan Gruffudd a role, and cites meetings that blur the lines between socializing and business as problematic, yet endemic to the entertainment industry.
"Tell me one person who has the power to hire who doesn't get a feeling about a person, a good feeling, and then hire them because of that. You can't legislate against feelings. It's very accepted in our business that chemistry with a person is how you get a job. It's like, work your magic, do your thing. 'She gives good meeting' is one of the things they say. Fortunately, one of the amazing things about social media is that now we can call it out when things go wrong. And in the court of public opinion, if we're calling out somebody because we've got a problem with them, an issue, and we're being less than honest, then we won't get backed up. But if somebody is doing something, hopefully no longer people will just sit there and go, 'Oh my God, this happened.' Ultimately, it's about bullying for me. I hate bullying."
She's suing TWC after being assaulted at the Peninsula Beverly Hills in 2010.
"I felt like it was the right time for me to come forward because some really established people had already shared their story. I felt like my story would contribute to that story and I had been holding it in for so long, I just wanted the world to know, in a way. I feel like there has been a little bit of a shift where these women are being believed. Finally, the media published it, I mean they delayed it for so long, that was a problem. But once the story was published I felt like that set the foundation. This industry has that dark side. I wanted to share my story to make a difference. But I'm on the SAG nominating committee and want nothing to do with that name and company. I don't know how fair people can be this awards season."
She interviewed with Weinstein at his Westport, Connecticut, home in 2008. He greeted her in his underwear and "pressed his body against mine, his crotch against my … everything."
"When this story broke, it was the first time I realized I wasn't alone. I spent nine years not talking about it because I was afraid. I would bet you a million dollars I'm not on that hit list [of women Weinstein had investigated] because I kept my mouth shut and actively did not pursue acting after that incident. When you have a terrible interaction with a man and it doesn't become violent, you feel like you've gotten off easy, and that's crazy. And I have talked to a lot of the other women and they felt the same way. He had the power and the inclination to control people, to end careers and to ruin lives. I just want to be a voice for people who can't come forward, who are afraid. This moment is wonderful because it shows a group of really strong women who have been through terrible things and that together we have strength."