Mere minutes after Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison after being convicted of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and third-degree rape, a number of his survivors gathered in Los Angeles for the sexual assault survivor conference Echo.
The coincidental timing made for an emotional and celebratory morning with several silence breakers at downtown L.A.’s California Endowment Center, with Louise Godbold, Caitlin Dulany, Jessica Barth, Katherine Kendall, Larissa Gomes, Lauren Sivan, Lili Bernard and Rowena Chiu gathering for the day of discussion.
Godbold, who led the conference, took the stage less than hour after the sentencing came through, starting with “So, 23 years” to applause from the crowd. With Weinstein’s possible sentencing ranging from five to 29 years, many of the women expressed shock that the ruling was on the longer end of the scale, with many admitting they thought he would get away with only five years in prison.
“I did not think he would get as strong a sentence as he did, but I’m thrilled — it shows that not just the jury but the judge thought that he really was a danger and should have a strong sentence,” Sivan told The Hollywood Reporter. “I never thought I would wish this on anyone but I’m pretty happy, he’ll most likely die in jail. And aside from that verdict, he’ll have to come to L.A. and face whole new charges. This man will never, ever have the life he used to live and for someone who’s been at it for as long as he has, that sentence isn’t even the same length of time that some of these women had to live with the trauma he caused.”
Gomes, who was getting her son ready for school when she heard news of the sentence, said that she shared an emotional moment with him, yelling, “‘We did it!’ He’s like, ‘What, mommy?’ And I’m like, ‘He’s going to jail for a very long time,’ and he’s like ‘High five, mommy, you did it!”
Wednesday morning’s sentencing ends Weinstein’s New York trial, which began Jan. 6. His team has said they will appeal the jury’s decision to convict him on two of the five charges he faced. Judge James Burke, before issuing his sentence, told Weinstein that he will be formally registered as a sex offender.
For his conviction on the first-degree count of criminal sexual act, Weinstein was given 20 years in prison plus five years of supervised release. On the other convicted charge, third-degree rape, he was given three years in prison. The sentences are consecutive, rather than concurrent.
Dulany, who was assaulted 22 years ago by Weinstein, said she never expected to see justice in her lifetime, crediting the women before her like Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford for their bravery in coming forward about their own assaults. She also addressed Weinstein’s pre-sentencing comments to the court, saying, “Harvey Weinstein is a very dangerous and scary man, and his strange statement to the court shows you that. Still saying that, ‘I thought we were friends, I was friends with these women.’ He did this to them and he was sitting in court listening to how it felt to them, so it was very weird.”
Chiu added that she was very conflicted when the verdict game out in mid-February, with Weinstein found guilty on two of his five charges, and “last week I braced myself for a unanimous acquittal and this week I thought it might be five years and a slap on the wrist. … This is tremendous, it’s more than any of us ever expected, but at the same time it should be a signal for us that our work matters, our voices matter.”
Several of the women had made the trip to New York to watch the trial in person and support the women who testified, ahead of Weinstein’s upcoming trial in Los Angeles.
“We were seen,” Kendall said. “I went two of the days and I thought this was one the hardest things I’ve ever seen, this is really, really real and intense. I left twice feeling a lot of love and sympathy for the women testifying, but I also felt defeated in a way, I didn’t leave feeling hope. So when he had a guilty verdict that was a huge weight off, and today I thought he was going to get five years and he’d get off on good behavior but then there’s the L.A. trial so that’d be good. You keep being glad for the little things, but for it to be what it is, it’s kind of a miracle. From where we came from to where we are now, it’s huge.”
Godbold said that despite the 23-year sentence, “It doesn’t really mean anything because we know he’s only going to serve half of the years, and I think he should serve every single one of those 23 years for what he’s done. But I do believe there’s a fat lady about to sing in L/A.”